Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 41.djvu/719

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701
EDITOR'S TABLE.

good to the world at large. What is wanted is a vast extension of this feeling and the raising of unconscious service to the human society to conscious service. "Who, indeed, that is not a criminal by nature would say: "I am wholly indifferent to the welfare of the social organism; if, by a slight effort, I could improve the conditions of life for numbers of my fellow-men, I would not do it"? If, then, we feel that selfish indifference to the general weal makes a man virtually a criminal and an outlaw, nothing should be required to spur us to a more diligent performance of our social duties than to be reminded from time to time of our membership in that vast society which comprises the human race, and whose constitution and bylaws are written in the civilization of our time. There is an esprit de corps which should animate every intelligent member of civilized society and which should make the performance of any service toward society, or toward any member of it, a pleasure. We certainly approve of the ends which the Society of Christian Endeavor sets before itself; but, in so far as it tends to obscure the antecedent obligation of every human being who lives by society to live also for society, it may, in spite of its admirable aims, be found working against rather than for the true progress of the race.

 

 

POSITIVISM IN FRANCE.

Most of our readers are probably aware that the name "positivism" was given by the French philosopher, Anguste Comte, to a system of thought and life which he professed to have founded on the unmistakable teachings of science. According to his view, the world had passed through the stages of intellectual childhood (theology) and adolescence (metaphysics), and had entered upon its maturity, the distinguishing mark of which would be the acceptance and systematic application of duly verified scientific truth. That Comte was a powerful thinker, with an altogether singular faculty for generalization, no one has ever been disposed to deny; and, although the scientific world in general has stood aloof from his system of thought as something too finished and definitive, and therefore too restrictive, for such an era of intellectual growth and expansion as the present, it has watched, not without sympathy, the efforts of his avowed followers to uphold the claims of science to a controlling voice in human affairs, and to promote the higher intellectual and moral life of society by means of popular lectures of a superior character. On the other hand, positivism has earned the hatred of the ecclesiastical foes of modern thought by the absoluteness of its rejection of their claims and pretensions. It is, therefore, an event of no ordinary importance that the leader of positivism in France, the man whom Auguste Comte designated as his successor, should have been selected by the Minister of Public Instruction to fill the newly created chair of the General History of the Sciences at the College de France, the most distinguished educational institution in the country. The chair was created, it is generally understood, with the express intention of offering it to M. Lafitte; and when the appointment was made it was greeted with almost unanimous approval by the press. Ecclesiastical journals, like the Univers, of course objected, and the Minister of Public Instruction had to answer some interpellations in the legislature; but, on the whole, the Government had every reason to congratulate itself on the effect produced on the public mind. Some of the comments of the Paris press are indeed very striking, showing a freedom in the expression of opinion to which in this country or in England the public is scarcely accustomed. "In these days of mystical reaction," says one paper (La Justice), "it was a very suitable thing to take strong ground for the positive and scientific spirit, and to proclaim