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ment of society.
formed. He is cell in the “ tissue” of which the body social is composed. This was partly recognised, it is true, before the theory of evolution had been elaborated. But the organic nature of the social union is confirmed by that theory, and erected into
a scientific view of human life. (6) Develop. Now the various sentiments which bring one man
into mental union with others act with greatest
In this connection, the theory of natural evolution traces the process by which, from the rudimentary beginnings of society, the members composing it have gradually become more coherent amongst one another, related in definite ways instead of merely
by chance, and more differentiated in function. Certain rudimentary forms—such as the family (in its rudest structure)—and the corresponding instincts are presupposed. And from this basis the origin of institutions and customs, political, religious, and industrial, is traced. In developing these various customs and institutions, along with the corresponding sentiments, the course of social evolution has had the effect of gradually bringing out and cultivating those feelings and tendencies in the individual which promote the welfare of the organism, while other individual tendencies, hostile to social welfare, have been repressed. Not sympathy and benevolence only, but honesty, temperance, justice, and all the ordinary social and personal virtues, may have their natural history traced in this way—by showing how they have contributed to the life of the individual, or of the society, or of both. Through the operation of purely natural laws, the wicked are “cut off from the earth,” while the “perfect remain in it” and leave their possessions to their children. This is an obvious result of natural selection. For those communities are always fittest to survive in which each member, in feeling and in act, is most at one with the whole. The tendency of evolution seems to be to produce not merely an ideal but an actual identification of individual and social interests, in which each man finds his own good in that of the state.
1 This subject is carefully discussed in Mr Stephen's ‘Science of Ethics.'
EVOLUTION AND ETHICAL THEORIES.
on previous ethical theories.
Bearing of BEFORE going on to inquire into the positive conthe theory of evolution tributions to ethics which the theory of evolution
has to offer, it is necessary to consider the relation it bears to the preceding individualistic systems of morals. It was by way of investigations in psychology and in the theory of society, that it first began to influence ethical thought. And, at first sight, it appeared to come as a natural ally of one of the opposed schools, dreaded by the side it opposed, welcomed with open arms by that favoured with its friendship. But since the first shock of pained and pleased surprise, there have been rumours of dissension in the allies' camp; and the distribution of parties has now become a matter of difficulty. The doctrine of evolution, first seized upon for rebutting the arguments of the intuitional moralists, has been found to transform
1 Cf. Miss Cobbe, in ‘Darwinism in Morals, and other Essays' (1872), p. 5.
sentiment or intuition.
rather than to destroy their system; and the utilitarianism in whose interests the new controversial weapon was employed, seems to have been subjected to a parallel process of transformation. The bearing of evolution on egoism may appear to be even more fundamental. For the inheritance by an individual of the qualities acquired by his ancestors may be thought to establish scientifically the theory of the unity of the race, and, in doing so, to make the selfish system of conduct an anachronism.
It is not necessary to examine at any length the 1. On theoapplication of evolution to the theories which con- ing on moral struct ethical principles on the basis of moral sentiment, because these theories have been found either to resolve themselves into a subtle form of egoistic hedonism, or else to rest their ethical system on a teleological conception, which transcends the “naturalistic” view of man. Evolution has its own explanation to give of the seemingly intuitive character of moral ideas—showing how their immediate necessity for the individual of the present day may be reconciled with their empirical origin in the mental history of the race. It attempts thus to supplant both egoism and intuitionism by the same doctrine of the organic union between individuals.
The phenomena of conscience and the moral sentiments had been brought forward to show that the origin of morality was independent of the experience of the pleasurable or painful results of
action: that certain actions and traits of character were immediately approved and pronounced to be right by the individual conscience, and certain others as inexplicably but infallibly disapproved and pronounced to be wrong. This phenomenon of moral approbation or disapprobation had indeed been thought by some—as has been already seento be only a special feeling of pleasure or pain. Even as such, however, it pointed to a peculiar harmony or sympathy between the feelings of the individual and the fortunes of society. For the pleasure or pain of the individual was seen to be excited by actions and dispositions which might be shown to involve the common interests, but were
without relation to his own. Origin and Even on the “ empirical” interpretation of them, moral senti. such facts of the individual mind were in need of intuitions explanation; and the theory of evolution has taken
in hand to show how the pre-established harmony grew up. The results of this explanation are, of course, not put forward as explaining the facts away, or depriving them of reality, but as enabling us to see their true place and bearing in the economy of human nature. In tracing the origin and history of the “altruistic” and “ moral” sentiments of the individual, the theory of evolution has this end in view. It offers—so it is often said
-terms of compromise between the “intuitional” and the “empirical” psychology of morals. It will
traced by evolution.