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HEDONISM AND EVOLUTIONISM.
1. Alliance of evolu
hedonism effected in
1. Alliance THE alliance between Evolutionism and Hedonism tionism and may be arrived at from either of the two points of
view which are being brought into connection: may two ways: be either an attempt to bring the hedonistic end into
the definite region of law revealed by the evolution of life; or may result from the endeavour to give clearness and persuasiveness to an ethical end which
evolution itself seems to point to. (a) greatest The former point of view is represented in Mr be obtained Spencer's rejection of empirical utilitarianism, and
m. substitution for it of a practical end which is not
enunciated in terms of pleasure. Happiness is still evolution ;
regarded by him as the supreme end; but the tendency to it is not to be adopted as the end in practical morality. There are certain conditions to social equilibrium which“must be fulfilled before complete life—that is, greatest happiness—can be obtained in any society."1 Thus the form of “rational utilitari
1 Data of Ethics, p. 171.
by conforming to laws of life or of
anism” which he endeavours to establish “does not take welfare for its immediate object of pursuit,” but “conformity to certain principles which, in the nature of things, causally determine welfare."1 Having deduced “from the laws of life and the conditions of existence what kinds of action necessarily tend to produce happiness, and what kinds to produce unhappiness,” we are to recognise these deductions “as laws of conduct . . . irrespective of a direct estimation of happiness or misery." The assumption is thus distinctly made that the tendency of life is to happiness, and that the laws of its evolution yield practical principles by following out which the greatest happiness may be obtained, without attempting the impossible task of estimating directly the felicific and infelicific results of conduct.
Starting with the evolutionist point of view, but (6) ethical · with an opposite estimate of the relative value for ev practice of the ends supplied by evolutionism and in
by pleasure. by hedonism, a like identification of them might seem advisable. The “increase of life” to which evolution tends may be regarded as not merely an account of the actual process of existence, but as a principle of action for a conscious being. In this way some such ethical imperative as “Be a selfconscious agent in the evolution of the universe” 3 may be formulated. Yet as the “evolution of the
end of evolution
1 Data of Ethics, p. 162.
2 Ibid., p. 57. 3 Cf. A. Barratt, in Mind, ii. 172 n.
universe” is a somewhat large conception, and its laws are not clear to every one, it may seem necessary that the end should be explained by translation into better known terms. And this may be done if the conduct which promotes life most is, at the same time, the conduct which increases pleasure most. In this way, although the ultimate end is life, or, in vaster phrase, “the evolution of the universe,” the practical end is pleasure. The moral value of conduct will depend on its tendency to increase the balance of pleasure over pain. The ethics of evolution will be reduced to hedonism.
This way of determining the evolutionist end is put forward as a logical possibility rather than as representing the views of any party. The contribution which the theory of evolution has to offer towards the determination of the ethical end, has not yet received that definite expression which would justify our passing by any logical interpretation of it, on the ground of its not being actually adopted by ethical writers. Yet it would seem that the above point of view is not altogether foreign to evolutionist morality. The preservation or development of the individual—or of the race—which is put forward as an expression both for the actual course of evolution and the subjective impulse corresponding to it, is often assumed to agree at each step with the desire for pleasure, and, when the stage of reflective consciousness is reached, to be
identical with the pursuit of a maximum of pleasure. In this way it is assumed that the preservation and development of life tend always to pleasure, and that the end or tendency of evolution is being fulfilled when the greatest pleasure is wisely sought. It is therefore necessary to inquire how far the correspondence between life and pleasure, or between development and pleasure, actually holds, that we may see whether it is possible for the one to take the place of the other in determining the end for conduct.
Now it is argued, from the point of view of 2. Evoluevolution, that, taking for granted that pleasure ment fo motives action, the organisms in which pleasurable acts coincided with life-preserving or health-pro- and pleasmoting acts must have survived in the struggle for
concomitance of life
1 As illustrating this I may refer to G. v. Giżycki, Philosophische Consequenzen der Lamarck-Darwin'schen Entwicklungstheorie (1876), p. 27 : “Wir haben oben die Erhaltung und Förderung des Lebens des Individuums und der Gattung als das eine Ziel der Einrichtung des geistigen Organismus gekennzeichnet.” P. 58 : “Auf das Streben nach in sich befriedigtem psychischen Leben [that is to say, pleasure) sind alle animalen Organismen angelegt." In his popular essay, 'Grundzüge der Moral' (1883), Dr Giżycki's principle and method are utilitarian. With the above may be compared Guyau, Esquisse d'une morale sans obligation ni sanction (1885), p. 15 : “L'action sort naturellement du fonctionnement de la vie, en grande partie inconscient; elle entre aussitôt dans le domaine de la conscience et de la jouissance, mais elle n'en vient pas. La tendance de l'être à persévérer dans l'être est le fond de tout désir sans constituer elle-même un désir déterminé.”
existence at the expense of those organisms whose pleasurable activity tended to their destruction or to the hindrance of their efficiency. The assumption in this argument, in addition to the constant postulate of natural selection, is simply that pleasure is a chief motive of action; the conclusion to which it leads is, that there is a broad correspondence between life-preserving and pleasurable acts
—that the preservation and development of life are pleasurable. It is necessary to examine with care the validity of this important argument with reference to the attacks that may be made on it from the pessimist point of view; and, if its doctrine of the correspondence of life and pleasure is not entirely erroneous, to inquire further whether this correspondence can be made to establish an end for conduct, in accordance with the theory of evolution, by measuring life in terms of pleasure.
What then is to be said of the supposed“ conflict between Eudæmonism [Hedonism] and Evolutionism” which v. Hartmann 2 opposes to the optimist doctrine that evolution has tended to make life and pleasure coincide ?
i Spencer, Data of Ethics, p. 82 f; Principles of Psychology, § 125, 3d ed., i. 280 ; Stephen, Science of Ethics, p. 83. The simplicity of this argument will be appreciated if we consider the difficulty Comte experienced in trying to reach a similar conclusion. See Positive Philosophy, Miss Martineau's translation, ii. 87 8.
2 Cf. Phänomenologie des sittlichen Bewusstseins, pp. 701,
tions to this