Beacon Lights of History, Volume 14 eBook

John Lord
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 311 pages of information about Beacon Lights of History, Volume 14.
a series of works which were to be issued in periodical parts, and would, collectively, constitute a system of philosophy.  In 1862 appeared the “First Principles,” and in 1867 the “Principles of Biology.”  In 1872 the “Principles of Psychology” was published; the first part of the “Principles of Ethics” in 1879; and his “Principles of Sociology” in three volumes, begun in 1876, was completed in 1896.  In the preface to the third volume of the last-named work the author explains that the fourth volume originally contemplated, which was to deal with the linguistic, intellectual, moral, and aesthetic phenomena, would have to remain unwritten by reason of the author’s age and infirmities.  The astounding extent of Herbert Spencer’s labors becomes, indeed, the more marvellous when one considers that impaired health has for many years incapacitated him for persistent application.  Owing partly to his ill health, and partly to the absorbing nature of his occupation, his life has been a retired one, and in the ordinary sense of the term, uneventful.  He has never married, and, although the high opinion of his writings formed by contemporaries has led to many academic honors being pressed upon him at home and abroad, these have all been declined.  It only remains to mention that in 1882 he visited the United States, where the importance of his speculations had been early recognized, and that his home is now in Brighton, England.

II.

In Mr. Spencer’s latest book, “Facts and Comments,” a little light is thrown on the author’s habits, opinions, and predilections.  Referring to the athleticism to which so much attention is paid just now in English and American universities, he points out how erroneous it is to identify muscular strength with constitutional strength.  Not only is there error in assuming that increase of muscular power and increase of general vigor necessarily go together, but there is error in assuming that the reverse connection cannot hold.  As a matter of fact, the abnormal powers acquired by gymnasts may be at the cost of constitutional deterioration.  In a paper on “Party Government” the author maintains that what we boast of as political freedom consists in the ability to choose a despot, or a group of oligarchs, and, after long misbehavior has produced dissatisfaction, to choose another despot or group of oligarchs:  having meanwhile been made subject to laws, some of which are repugnant.  Abolish the existing conventional usages, with respect to party fealty,—­let each member of parliament feel that he may express by his vote his adverse belief respecting a government measure, without endangering the government’s stability,—­and the whole vicious system of party government would disappear.  In a paper on “Patriotism,” Mr. Spencer says that to him the cry “Our country, right or wrong,” seems detestable.  The love of country, he adds, is not fostered in him by remembering

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Beacon Lights of History, Volume 14 from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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