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case, to their historical genesis and the facts in which they originated; in the other, to the searching test of logical consistency, and their capability of being applied to conduct. But the theory of evolution, if it succeeds in tracing the origin of our moral intuitions, does seem to involve the abandonment of the old intuitional method which accepted them as rules of conduct from which no appeal could be taken.
of the theory
2. Bearing The theory of evolution transforms intuitionism of evolution by the way in which it connects the individual on egoism. with the race. Its first effect upon egoism is similar.
The nature of the individual man as now exhibited is widely different from that which the older individualistic theory used to deal with. The latter is typified by the marble statue to which Condillac 1 compares the percipient subject, as yet unaffected by sense-impressions. The variety of mental life which is actually met with is accounted for by the different kinds of experiences different men pass through ; and the consequent difference in the sources of pleasure and pain accounts for the diverse lines of activity which human beings follow out. But the theory of evolution shows that human nature is infinitely varied, not only through the variety of circumstances, but through the variety of inherited dispositions. One individual is not
1 Traité des sensations, Euvres (1798), vol. iii.
merely connected with others through considerable similarity of experience built upon an equally characterless basis; but he is organically related to all the members of the race, not only bone of their bone and flesh of their flesh, but mind of their mind. He is connected with others by a thousand subtly interwoven threads of emotion which enter into his life, and unite his desires and activities with the functions of the larger organism of which he is a member.
The theory of evolution has thus an important Relation of contribution to make to the question of the relation altruism between egoism and altruism. It has remained for ^ it to show historically how the individual is so con- (a) nature of nected with the community that the good, or the ual social, pleasure, of the one cannot be considered apart from that of the other. From the non-evolutionist point of view it was always open to show how the individual depended on society, how his wants could only be supplied by it, and how the security and happiness of every one were bound up with those of his fellows. The individualistic theory was thus able to give all sorts of egoistic reasons why people should indulge in what is now called altruistic conduct. Self was seen to be “a poor centre for a man's actions, and only chosen by the shortsighted person, who thereby missed both the good to himself that followed from his neighbours' wellbeing, and the peculiar pleasure of sympathy and
benevolent action. But the theory of evolution has shown how the two things have developed together in the race: first, the actual solidarity between the individual and the whole; and secondly, the subjective reflection of the same fact, sympathy with the feelings of others. When we ask, therefore, whether it is our own pleasure (or good) or that of others that we ought to aim at, we are pointed to the gradual obliteration of the distinction between the interest and feelings of the individual and those of the whole. Were this completely accomplished, there need be no more question about the matter. If conduct with an egoistic motive or aim always resulted in altruistic equally with egoistic effects, and if altruistic conduct had always egoistic equally with altruistic consequences, it would even then be little more than vain subtlety to ask whether egoism or altruism was to be the real end of conduct. But if, in addition to the identity of interests, there were also an identity of motive or feeling, the question would be no longer in place at all. For there would cease to be either a subjective distinction in motive between egoism and altruism, or an objective distinction in the courses of conduct to which they led. And it is just because this identification is manifestly incomplete — because
but not completely
1 It is to a condition of this sort that a phrase such as Clifford's “tribal self” (Lectures and Essays, ii. 111) would apply.
neither the interests nor the desires of the indi- social. vidual harmonise with any degree of exactness with those of his fellows—that we must examine how far the conception of the social organism is a true expression for the connection of individuals.
At most, the theory of organic evolution can make Difference out that there is a tendency towards the identifica- indivi tion of the interests of the individual with those and so of society. It cannot demonstrate a complete identification. The community has indeed been called an organism, and the individual spoken of as a cell in the tissue of which it is composed; but we must avoid pressing this analogy to the point of breaking. Among so many points of similarity between society and an individual organism, there is one essential distinction,—the social organism has no feelings and thoughts but those of its individual members—the conscious centre is in the unit, not in the whole; whereas, when we regard the individual organism and its constituent members, consciousness is seen to exist only in the whole, not in each several unit. The absence of a “social sensorium ”i should, therefore, make us hesitate to identify the ends of individual with those of collective action. Every cell in the individual body has a life-history of its own, besides partaking of the life of the organism; and, did it possess the reason which “ looks before and after,"
1 Cf. Spencer, Principles of Sociology, i. 479.
it might probably adopt an egoistic attitude, and object to the subordination of its private interests to the good of the whole. In the same way, the many individual lives which make up the social organism—since each of them possesses a separate consciousness—are apt to disregard the life of the larger whole whose members they are. Now what the theory of utilitarianism requires is, that the happiness or pleasurable consciousness of the community or of the race, not that of the individual, be made the end; and those who make egoism the end of ethics, commonly maintain that the general happiness is the end of politics. The individual is not indeed required to be entirely unselfish or “altruistic” in action. He is not altogether forbidden to seek his own things, nor enjoined to seek only the things of others; and evolutionist utilitarianism, indeed, would tell him to seek his own happiness in the happiness of the community. But the obvious remark must be borne in mind, that society, the social organism, cannot experience happiness. However it may resemble the individual organism in the manner of its growth, the modes of its activity, and even its relation to its component members, yet it cannot feel pleasure or pain as an individual does. The “happiness of the community” does not mean the happiness of the social organism, but is only a concise formula
i Cf. Barratt, “ Ethics and Politics ”—Mind, ii. 453 ff.