Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 20.djvu/868

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science to deduce from the laws of life and the conditions of existence what kinds of action necessarily tend to produce happiness, and what kinds to produce unhappiness. Having done this, its deductions are to be recognized as laws of conduct, and are to be conformed to irrespective of a direct estimation of happiness or misery." The italics are our own, but they broadly and positively define Mr. Spencer's position to be the reverse of that charged upon him in this article. Yet, notwithstanding this unequivocal statement, it pleases Professor Smith to represent Spencer's moral doctrines as absolving men from all moral obligation, and as giving a virtual license to crime by making immediate pleasure and pain the test of right and wrong; and, that his accusation might be sufficiently offensive, he draws pictures of a voluptuary and of a murderer excusing their actions by the principles of the "Data of Ethics."

But Professor Smith goes still further, and labors to show that Mr. Spencer has laid down principles which he has not himself the courage to pursue to their applications, and which cut up, root and branch, all pretext of any morality whatever. He quotes largely and repeatedly, from a late book of Dr. Van Buren Denslow, certain brutal passages in which the idea of any morality, except the will of the strongest, is sneered at as ridiculous. It is denied in these quotations that there is any such thing as a moral law which is broken by lying or stealing, and it is declared that the rules which have arisen against these practices are only expressions of a predominant brute force in society, which maintains them as a means of imposing upon and plundering the weak and the defenseless.

And how does Professor Smith make out that this is the outcome of Spencer's doctrines? By representing that Dr. Van Buren Denslow is a "profound admirer" and a "disciple" of Herbert Spencer who is only more "fearless" than his "master," and carries out his doctrines to their legitimate conclusions. The "Saturday Review" reproduces the substance of Professor Smith's article, and gives special distinctness to this feature of it. It says: "The case will become clearer if we turn from Mr. Spencer himself to his American admirer and disciple, Dr. Van Buren Denslow, who, as sometimes happens with disciples, has carried out his master's principles more consistently to their logical results. In a work entitled 'Modern Thinkers,' and commended to the public by a preface of Mr. Robert Ingersoll's, the chief apostle of agnosticism in America, he argues that on scientific principles there is no such thing as a moral law irrespective of the will of the strongest."

Now, the whole force of this case depends upon the assertion of Goldwin Smith that Dr. Van Buren Denslow is a "disciple" of Herbert Spencer. But the assertion is not true in any sense or in any degree. On the contrary, Dr. Denslow is an open antagonist of Mr. Spencer. His essay on Spencer's philosophy, first published in the Chicago "Times," while speaking of the man in the usual terms of perfunctory compliment, as have also Goldwin Smith and the "Saturday Review," is adverse, carping, and depreciatory on every point that he considers. The criticism was regarded as so damaging that Spencer's friends were told they must reply to it or for ever hold their peace; and we were confidently assured that the last we should ever hear of Spencer's system was the thud of the clods that Denslow had thrown upon its coffin. When the revised essay appeared in "Modern Thinkers," there was added a sharp attack upon the "Data of Ethics," in which the whole argument was scouted. And yet this man is paraded as Spencer's "disciple" for the unworthy purpose of fastening upon him the odium of opinions in total contradiction to all that he has ever written.