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arvard College Library
Aug. 20, '9'9.
ENTERED, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1874,
By D. APPLETON & CO.
In France, nowadays, few works of dogmatic philosophy are produced.
The writers who belong to the school of Auguste Comte endeavor, by means of useful monography, to spread positive knowledge. By the analytical character of their studies, and by the efforts they make to avoid the construction of systems on metaphysical ground, they do homage to their master's ideas.
The school of materialism which still holds to the dogmatic method of metaphysics, bears too plainly the stamp of its origin to possess a developed doctrine. Its adherents, graduates mostly from the laboratories of the chemist and the physiologist, are indifferent to departments of knowledge that are inaccessible through these two sciences. When they speak of thought and of society, they simply carry over to the facts indicated by these two terms an induction drawn from their own special studies.
The authors and professors who are concerned with the teaching of official doctrines mainly devote themselves to the defence of certain authorized credences, and to the demolition of the rival opinions of positivism and materialism. Their labors are, therefore, almost exclusively critical.
Among the thinkers who belong to neither of these categories, but who have distinguished themselves by spe. cial works of great philosophic depth and reach, some take pleasure in tracing the outlines of a treatise on the nature of things; they would, perhaps, undertake such a treatise, if they could detach themselves from researches that profoundly interest them, or could be satisfied that they had collected a sufficient number of incontestable data.
The stage of patient analytical research, at which the French mind of our time is halting, must necessarily be succeeded by an epoch of synthesis, as the period of incubation is followed by a period of birth. But, while with us only rough draughts appear, in England a bold scheme of construction is submitted.
Mr. Herbert Spencer, in a work of great compass, a revised edition of the first. volume of which has recently been published, offers to our consideration a synthesis of the universe, as apprehended by an intellect enriched by all the treasures won by science.' The friends of philos. ophy must devoutly hope that the author's health, already shaken by intellectual toil that would try the most robust constitution, may permit the completion of a work that crowns a life of consecration to lofty studies.
1 The name of Herbert Spencer, though unfamiliar to the public, cap. not be unknown. His full discussion of objections to Auguste Comte's classification of the sciences, which may be read in the sixth chapter of a work by M. Littré (“ Auguste Comte and the Positive Philosophy," 1863); then an interesting article on the first edition of “First Princi. ples," published by M. Laugel in the Revue des Deux Mondes (February 15, 1864); a rapid review of Mr. Spencer's theory of the unknowable, in the preface, by a disciple, which M. Littré prefixed to the second edition of the “ Cours de Philosophie" of Auguste Comte, must have given us to understand with what a vigorous thinker we have to deal. Since then, divers notices in philosophical writings, too brief and incidental to recall, have kept the name in remembrance. Finally, this very year, a professor in the university, M. Th. Ribot, published a carefully-elaborated book on “ Contemporaneous English Psychology.” There will be found a clear summary of the “Principles of Psychology" (first edition), and of some essays by Mr. Spencer. We ought also to mention a pamphlet by our friend M. Grotz, pastor, on “The Religious Sentiment." There one may read an admirable exposition of Mr. Spencer's opinions on the function of religion and the significance of the religious sentiment.
To pass judgment at present on a work which is to comprise ten volumes, and of which but five have appeared, would be rash. Nevertheless, as Mr. Spencer, before undertaking his “System of Philosophy," has submitted his views by fragments, in volumes or in contributions to reviews, we are able to follow the author through the successive passages he traversed before finally arriving at the synthesis we find in the "First Principles.” It should not, however, be forgotten that in the previously-published books nothing is conclusively stated; and that the author, by connecting them with the principle of evolution, proposes in the course of his work to complete views which, by his own confession, are but an imperfect expression of his actual thought.' Making this allowance, we shall attempt a description of the character of Mr. Herbert Spencer's philosophy, and shall indicate the part which, in our judgment, every synthesis of the kind is called, under actual circumstances, to fill.
See the preface to the stereotyped edition of “Social Statics," 1868.