Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 43.djvu/569

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EDITOR'S TABLE.

"Give strong drink to him that is ready to perish;" but do not cast any reflections upon bread because, at such a moment, it might rather choke than aid the sufferer.

The volume which Mr. Spencer has just given to the world is one of great value and interest. In our book notices will be found a summary of its contents; but we desire here to add our commendation of it as an eminently practical treatise on the two important themes of Justice and Beneficence, The portion dealing with Justice was published separately two years ago, and was noticed iu these columns at the time. Much of the matter which it contains is, however, of such urgent importance in the present day that we hope the publication of the complete volume will have the effect of calling attention anew to its analysis of rights and its trenchant discussion of the nature and functions of the state. The portions dealing with Beneficence under the two heads of Negative and Positive bring out in a striking manner the large element of sympathy in the writer's disposition. Careless critics have heretofore been in the habit of asserting that the evolution philosophy, as expounded by Mr. Spencer, enjoined pure selfishness. There was quite sufficient in earlier portions of Mr. Spencer's writings—particularly in the Data of Ethics, published in 1879—to disprove this assertion; bat not even a careless critic could make it after reading, however cursorily, the volume before us. Here is a noble passage from the chapter on Succor to the 111-used and the Endangered: "Doubtless it is well for humanity at large to maintain the tradition of heroism. One whose altruistic promptings are so strong that he loses his own life in an almost hopeless effort to save another's life, affords an example of nobility which in a measure redeems the innumerable cruelties, brutalities, and meannesses prevailing among men, and serves to keep alive hope of a higher humanity hereafter. The good done in occasionally putting egoism to the blush may be counted as a set-off against the loss of one whose altruistic nature should have been transmitted."

Mr. Spencer has himself anticipated the criticism that much of what he says in regard to beneficence will not seem to have any very clear connection with the doctrine of evolution; and so far he professes himself disappointed in the outcome of the work. We do not feel called upon to share in his disappointment. The doctrine of evolution has served in the earlier volumes to interpret the world for us, to enable us to understand our environment, and know both how it has come to be what it is, and how we have come to be what we are. That it should also serve as a guide through the complexities of human action is more than we ever expected. Knowing ourselves and our environment, the conduct we ought to pursue as being likely to result in the greatest amount of happiness to ourselves and others may be arrived at by reflection and experience. Mr. Spencer, in the last two sections of the present volume, analyzes the principal situations in which individuals are liable to find themselves, and shows in an instructive manner the conduct, negative and positive, appropriate to each. We do not see how much fault can be found with any of his conclusions. To us it appears that he lays down many of the most important principles of correct and useful social behavior, and that his treatise as a whole, but particularly the sections dealing with beneficence, would make the best kind of household reading for a large class of families. Philosophy here puts on a homely garb and walks hand in hand with the wisdom that every day's experience teaches. Until Philosophy does this, her work Is not finished. Mr. Spencer's last words seem to us his best.