Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 30.djvu/77

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65
COMTE AND SPENCER ON SOCIOLOGY.

manist or a philanthropist in education both with sincerity and with reason. There is a seed of truth in each half of these contrasts, and it is more than probable that, despite all attempts at adjustment, men will be born humanists and philanthropists to the end of time.[1]

 

COMTE AND SPENCER ON SOCIOLOGY.[2]
By LEON METCHNIKOFF.

THE most momentous intellectual conquest of our days is, perhaps, the discovery of the great law of the unity and continuity of life, generally styled the law of evolution. Not only are the remotest branches of knowledge—as, e. g., physics and psychology, or chemistry and politics—connected by it into a systematic and harmonious whole; but by it also has been realized that union between science and philosophy for which the clearest minds of former ages longed in vain. The secular feud between idealists and materialists ceases on the solid ground of the evolutionary doctrine, where every science becomes philosophical without surrendering to any metaphysical or a priori conception; while, on the other hand, our psychological and ethical inquiries acquire a firm basis and scientific precision and accuracy as soon as they are touched by the vivifying spirit of this theory.

Since we admit the unity of life, and since we consider cosmic phenomena, in spite of their amazing apparent diversity, only as various manifestations or consecutive degrees of one evolution, we are compelled to infer that our methods of political or historical knowledge ought to be essentially identical with those generally prevailing in physical or biological researches. Metaphysical speculations on social matters, in which the greatest philosophers of former centuries delighted, lose their hold upon the skeptical mind of our age, and even the economic empiricism of Adam Smith, Malthus, and Ricardo, grows inadequate to the modern demand for positive knowledge of the natural laws pervading the evolution of human societies. Sociology, i. e., a strictly scientific statement of these laws, is considered nowadays as an integral part, as the necessary "couronnement de l’édifice" of a methodical conception of the world. The very name of sociology has been created ad hoc by Comte, who esteemed himself to be the

  1. In closing the more distinctly historical portions of these articles, I desire again to express my indebtedness to the foreign histories of education. From such a work as Schmidt's "Geschichte" I have made selection and condensation as seemed best to serve my purpose. It will be understood that for all criticisms and opinions, e. g., on English deism, on classical study, I am alone responsible.
  2. From an article entitled "Revolution and Evolution," in the "Contemporary Review" for September, 1886.