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If, then, we have been seeking to define the evolu- maximum tionist end by interpreting it in terms of pleasure, om> delnit appears that we have only succeeded in making "J the round of a circle: pleasure as the end is seen to be only definable as life or activity, although it was adopted as the end in order that by its help we might discover what life or activity meant as the end for conduct. We may, perhaps, still be able to hold to a form of hedonism, if we turn our attention from the race to a small portion of present mankind. In spite of the modifiability of function and its parasite feeling, we may still be able to say that such and such a course of action is likely to bring most pleasure to the individual or even to the family. But we cannot extend such a means of interpreting the ethics of evolution to the race, where the possibility of modification is indefinitely great, and the pain incurred in initiating a change counts for little in comparison with its subsequent results. If we continue to look from the evolutionist point of view, the question, What conduct will on the whole bring most pleasure? can only be answered by saying that it is the conduct which will most promote life —an answer which might have been more satisfactory had it not been to give meaning to this end "promotion of life " that it was interpreted in terms of greatest pleasure. The evolution-theory of ethics is thus seen to oscillate from the theory which looks upon the summum bonum as pleasure, to that which
finds it in activity. It contains elements which make it impossible for it to adhere to the former alternative. The comprehensiveness of its view of life makes it unable to adopt pleasure as the end, since pleasure changes with every modification of function. And it has now to be seen whether the empirical method of interpretation to which it adheres will allow of its notion of life or activity affording a satisfactory end for conduct.
THE EVOLUTIONIST END.
In showing the important bearing which evolution wantofharhas on the causes of pleasure, the argument of the S^eroiupreceding chapter has also made clear that the ends *10msmand
* or hedonism.
of evolutionism and of hedonism cannot be made to explain one another. The theory which starts with a maximum of pleasure as the ultimate end, but points to the course of evolution as showing how that end is to be realised, is confronted by the fact that the development of life does not always tend to increased pleasure, and that the laws of its development cannot therefore be safely adopted as maxims for the attainment of pleasure. The same objection may be taken to the method of interpreting the evolutionist end by means of the pleasurable results of conduct. The two do not correspond with that exactness which would admit of one doing duty for the other as a practical guide. And a further difficulty has been shown to stand in the way of this method. For, on coming to analyse pleasure, we find that it may, by habituation, arise from any —or almost any—course of conduct which the conditions of existence admit of. The evolutionist, therefore, can have no surer idea of greatest pleasure—even although this may not be a very sure one—than that it will follow in the train of the greatest or most varied activity which harmonises with the laws of life. Necessity of "We must therefore forsake the method of eclec
investigat- .. . .
ing indepen- ticism, and inquire whether the theory of evolution
dent evolu- T • J i, , .-i , i
tionistend. can rnake any independent contribution towards determining an end for conduct. We are frequently told that it prescribes as the end " preservation," or "development," or " the health of the society." But to obtain a clear meaning for such notions, we must see what definite content the theory of evolution can give them,—without considering, at present, the grounds for transforming them into ethical precepts. Now, it may be thought—and the suggestion deserves careful examination—that we may find in the characteristics of evolution itself1 an indication of the end which organisms produced by and subject to evolution are naturally fitted to attain. These characteristics must therefore be
1 Taking evolution in its widest sense, since the theory of evolution does not "imply some intrinsic proclivity in every species towards a higher form."—Spencer, First Principles, App. p. 574; Principles of Sociology, i. 106.
passed under review, that their ethical bearings may be seen.
1. The first condition of development, and even 1. Adapta
. ... . . . . tion to en
ot lite, is correspondence between an organism and vironment: its environment. The waste implied in the processes which constitute the life of an organised body has to be supplied by nutriment got from surrounding objects. It requires food, air, light, and heat in due proportions in order that its various organs may do their work. When these circumstances change, either it adapts itself to the new conditions or death ensues. Thus "we find that every animal is limited to a certain range of climate; every plant to certain zones of latitude and elevation,"1—though nothing differs more among different species than the extent of an organism's adaptability to varying conditions. A definite organism and a medium suitable to it are called by Comte the two "fundamental correlative conditions of life"; according to Mr Spencer they constitute life. "Conformity " is absolutely necessary between "the vital functions of any organism and the conditions in which it is placed." In this conformity there are varying degrees, and "the completeness of the life will be proportionate to the completeness of the correspondence."2 Even when life is not altogether extinguished, it is impeded by imperfect 1 Spencer, Principles of Biology, i. 73. 2 Ibid., i. 82.