Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 31.djvu/579

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563
LITERARY NOTICES.

right as we can in the natural region, before we look for intellectual results or the peaceable fruits of righteousness. We seem already to see Science, the despised Cinderella, as Huxley says, scoring another triumph, and showing that, even for moral reform, its methods are worth more than all other modes of activity put together.

 


LITERARY NOTICES.

The Problem of Evil. An Introduction to the Practical Sciences. By Daniel Greenleaf Thompson, author of "A System of Psychology." London: Longmans, Green & Co. 1887. Cloth. 8vo. Pp. 281.

"The Problem of Evil," though modestly heralded by its author as "An Introduction to the Practical Sciences," and not assuming to present a complete exposition of ethical science, is in reality a noteworthy contribution to that department of philosophical inquiry. Aiming to clear the way for a popular understanding of the scienentific method as applied to moral and social problems, Mr. Thompson's treatment of his topic is less technical and systematic than readers of "A System of Psychology" would naturally be led to expect. The present work, however, loses little, if anything, in value to the philosophical student on this account, while its more popular style, and the practical nature of many of the questions herein discussed, will doubtless render it more attractive to the general reader, and introduce its author to many new acquaintances among thinking people.

The question presented in the earlier chapters of this book, and ably discussed in all its various phases throughout the succeeding pages, is none other than the great problem of all the theologies and moral philosophies: How shall we interpret the startling but undeniable fact of moral evil? How may we most wisely strive for its abatement and cure?

After briefly and fairly stating the chief theological explanations of evil—"those which look to a supernatural source and cause"—and expressing his dissent from this method of approaching the subject, our author proceeds to define moral evil as "pain caused by human volition" (p. 17); and to investigate briefly its causes and offices in the human economy. "Pain," he concludes, "is a universal concomitant of mind, so far as we are able to make mind a subject of science." As we are unable to trace, scientifically, the origin of mind or life, we are therefore baffled in our attempt to disclose the ultimate origin of evil. The practical problem, accordingly, to which we should turn our attention is, How may we seek for its elimination by the most effectual means? In other words, How may we best strive for the advancement of human happiness?

Readers of "A System of Psychology" will be prepared to find our author in accord with utilitarian theories of ethics. The psychological and philosophical elements involved in the problem of evil, however, are assumed, or briefly sketched, rather than presented in the form of a complete argumentative exposition, in the present work the philosophical foundations of this study having been laid by the author in the work—before mentioned. From the standpoint of a rational utilitarianism, he criticises with great acuteness and force what he terms the "Æstho-Egoistic" philosophy of Thomas Hill Green, and other representatives of the intuitional school. In the "subjective feeling or consciousness of self-satisfaction," which expresses the summum bonum of intuitional ethics, he discovers an ideal which is essentially egoistic. His own interpretation of utilitarian ethics, on the other hand, issues in an altruism which is widely removed from the alleged "selfishness" of the hedonistic philosophers. The "Chief Ideal Good "being" the existence of all individuals without pain, presentative or representative, during this period of existence," right conduct is that which tends toward this ideal, and right volition is the will to act according to its requirements (p. 71).

The four chief methods of reducing evil are found to be—1. "The Control of Material Forces," through industrial effort and scientific discovery and investigation; 2. "Security and Justice," through political action; 3. "Direct Altruistic Effort"; and, 4. "The Development of Individual Character," through education and moral training. The chief hindrances to this work are—1. The