Imatges de pàgina
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

apprehending it as essentially and absolutely be necessary to morality, they still go on to superior to any single motive that may pre- speak of social “instincts" as if no radical sent itself. The being who possesses this change were involved in the presence to incapacity is moral, because he is no longer stinct of a totally new factor. An“instinct” the sport of each “instinct " or impulse is definable as a blind, unreasoning impulse; that fits through his brain. When he se- but if the presence of reason enables man to lects one impulse as better than another he “compare his past and future actions or does so consciously and with his mind alert, motives," ---that is, to seize each impulse as not blindly and mechanically. Granting it arises, compare it with other impulses, that man has inherited from some lower and determine which is most compatible

the “instinct” of sympathy for with the conception simultaneously obtained others; still, so long as we conceive this of a self that is more than the passing mo“instinct” as a blind impulse that hurries ment, and therefore cannot be satisfied with him towards a goal from which he can- a momentary impulse ; if all this is implied not retract himself, just so long he is in the capacity of being moral, it is manineither moral nor responsible. If man has festly in defiance of the facts to go on talkno power to arrest each impulse as it comes ing of man as if he were still governed by up, none of his acts is higher or lower than “instinct,” when in reality he is governed another; all are alike morally indifferent. by instinct transformed, which is Reason. If, on the other hand, he has the capacity of The truth is that Natural Selection, understopping the flow of impulses, of weighing stood in the sense in which it is employed them against each other, and of determining to account for biological phenomena, has no which is most congruous with his rational application whatever to moral phenomena. nature, he is a new creature from whom If the social" instincts "are transformed into the consciousness of right and wrong, and rational motives before morality can arise of personal responsibility cannot be kept at all, moral progress must be conceived as back. So long as we assume nothing but a the development of Practical Reason, not ceaseless, unarrestable flow of impulses, we as an extension of natural characteristics. can give no valid reason for choosing man as To point to the external conditions which moral, and animals as non-moral. It is, of accompany the advance of morality—to say, course, a matter of little importance whether for example, that the tribe which chanced we fix the initial stage of moral development to develop the social instincts most highly, lower than man, or suppose it to have be- naturally survived-is to overlook the very gun with the half-animal progenitor of man; element that makes the triumph a moral for in either case, between the awakening of one. No doubt the most moral nation was the distinctively moral consciousness and also the most successful; but it was not sucthe antecedent state, a change must have cess that made it moral, but morality that taken place that was really to the individual, made it successful. The beginning of moand much more to the race, the beginning rality is when man no longer sways helplessof a new era of development. The old ly this way and that, now in the direction of “instinct” is no longer what it was : a new animal impulse, now in that of the social inelement has been added to it that interpene- stincts, according as each chances to be trates and transforms it, taking it out of the uppermost ; but when he seizes hold by a category of non-moral things, and putting primary act of abstraction of himself, as a it into the category of moral things. This is being who does not perish with the moment, tacitly implied in Mr. Darwin's definition of but has a destiny. At first his hold upon

a a “moral being ; " for if morality lies in the his inner rational nature is feeble and ul, capacity of “comparing past and future and hence his moral conceptions are obscure actions or motives, and of approving or dis- and changeable. Nevertheless, in view of approving of them,” this capacity is a new its infinite possibilities in the future, this element, and must on no account be slurred primal act of moral comprehension is an adover as if it were of no importance. This vance that cannot be over-estimated. An new element is self-consciousness, or reason. animal impulse has been converted into a The charge from which Mr. Darwin and his conscious motive of action, and the subsefollowers cannot free themselves is, that quent stages of moral progress are assured. while they admit the presence of reason to At each fresh effort the superior claims of

[ocr errors]

the higher nature are apprehended with species as prima facie on a par in respect of fresh clearness and tenacity, and motives goodness, except indeed that the older (and that before seemed adequate now reveal so generally the 'lower,' as we commonly themselves as lamentably inadequate. In estimate) would seem the better, in so far the pre-moral stage there was neither morali- as we have more evidence of their capacity ty nor immorality, selfishness nor unselfish- to exist under the physical conditions of our ness; in the incipient stage of morals there globe." Waiving this objection, it is to be are both. And as time goes on, the per- remarked that the elimination of self-conmanent self of Reason comes more and more sciousness as a factor in the constitution of into prominence, the transitory self of Im- morality is here obtrusively suggested. For pulse falls more and more into the back- it is implied in the standard of right set up ground. The Darwinians rightly place mo- by Mr. Darwin, that there is no essential rality in the relation of the individual to so- difference between the actions of animals, ciety ; but they fix upon the external and which are admittedly dependent upon instinct unessential features, instead of the internal alone, and the actions of man, in which reason and essential, They are right in stating plays a prominent part. Provided only that that men at first identify their highest good "the greatest number of individuals” is with the good of their own tribe ; but they reared “in full health and vigour," the end do not see that this is because there is then of morality is achieved ; which is simply to only a feeble conception of the truth that say, that an action done from a perceponly in self-identification with others can tion of its adequacy to the nature of one's true nature be realized. The imper- the being performing it, is no more rafect conception of moral progress which the tional than an action which is done under advocates of Evolution have adopted must the guidance of a blind instinct. But if thus be merged in the larger and truer con- this is a correct account of the true end of ception of a progress that is conscious and action, it seems to follow that right and rational, and therefore moral.

wrong are, at least in relation to the 3. The ultimate end and standard of mo- doer of an act, meaningless terms. If the rality, as conceived by the advocates of standard of conduct is the preservation of Evolution, is in close connection with that the species, the cat in catching mice is as account of the general nature and history of much performing a moral act as the patriot morality which has just been examined. who sacrifices himself for the good of his The moral sense,” says Mr. Darwin, * " is fellow-men, under the conviction that his 'fundamentally identical with the social in- moral nature demands this supreme act of stincts; and in the case of the lower ani- self-abnegation. So paradoxical a result may mals these instincts have been developed well make us suspect that there is some for the general good of the community. radical flaw in the conception which leads to The term, general good, may be defined as it. That flaw evidently consists in the tacit the means by which the greatest possible assumption, that the presence of reason to number of individuals can be reared in full animal instincts effects no change in the vigour and health, with all their faculities character of an act. But in reality it is just perfect, under the conditions to which they here that the essentially moral element steps are exposed. As the social instincts both in and transforms a blind impulse into a of man and the lower animals have no moral motive. The beginning of all morality, doubt been developed by the same steps, it whether in the individual or the race, lies in would be advisable, if found practicable, to the condemnation of mere impulse or pasuse the same definition in both cases, and sion-in looking down upon it as beneath to take, as the test of morality, the general | the dignity of a rational being ; and until good or welfare of the community.” this divine contempt of the old Adam has

To this conception of the proper standard | been felt, the notion of a moral law is an of right conduct, Mr. Sidgwickt pertinently impossibility. And although the highest objects that, “if pressed to its logical results, kind of morality does not end with the mere it would present to us all equally numerous condemnation of the natural desires, as

Asceticism has wrongly supposed, yet this # Descent of Man, vol. i. p. 94.

negative attitude is the necessary condition + Mind, No. i. p. 58.

of all moral advancement.

[ocr errors]

a

[ocr errors]

Until the part

ز

played by self-consciousness in breathing the it points at a hare ;* the notion of Duty is breath of moral life into the dry bones of thoroughly depleted of all that makes it the natural man is appreciated, morality is a moral. dream and responsibility an insoluble enigma. The result of this inquiry is, in brief :-In If man does not differ toto cælo from the the first place, that the doctrine of Evolution, animals in his capacity of turning against being concerned solely with the explanation any or all of his immediate impulses; of of material changes, throws no light whatever weighing them in the balance and rejecting upon the nature or history of morality; those that are found wanting ; of subordinat- secondly, that, while serving as at least a ing them to an end consciously determined provisional conception to bind together bioby himself; not only is his ineradicable logical phenomena, it supplies no data for sense of responsibility a delusion, but it is the settlement of ethical problems, nor can a inconceivable that it should ever have got proper conception of moral progress be exinto his consciousness at all. Mr. Darwin tracted from it; and, lastly, that the standard admits that the moral consciousness has of morality set up by Mr. Darwin and his grown up from a perception of the superiority followers is not a standard of morality at all,

a of one kind of impulse over another; but he since it omits the very element that disdoes not recognise that an impulse brought tinguishes moral from natural courses. The into relation with a permanent subject of it attempt of Evolutionists to solve ethical quesis by that very act no longer an impulse, tions by a method fundamentally unsound but a consciously determined end of action. can only be regarded as one more example Only in view of this distinction is it possible of the futile effort which some physicists are to understand why abandonment to an un- at present making to transcend the proper worthy motive should be followed by regret, sphere of scientific investigations; and, if and in giaver aberrations by remorse. The so, our ethical text-bookst cannot be purged "welfare of the community," in the higher of any imperfections with which they may be sense suggested by an appreciation of the burdened by the aid of the Darwinian theory transforming influence of reason, may be of development, or of any so-called system rightly enough defined as the ultimate end of morality based upon it. of right condact ; for in our conception of it must be included whatever is most conducive to the development of the higher

* “Any instinct which is permanently stronger or nature. Judged by this high standard it is

more enduring than another, gives rise to a feeling

which we express by saying that it ought to be easy to see why selfishness is wrong and un

obeyed. A pointer dog, if able to reflect on his selfishness right ; why the enlightened states- past conduct, would say to himself, I ought (as inman, the patriot, and the reformer are entitled deed we say of him) to have pointed at that hare, to the highest honour and esteem ; why the

and not have yielded to the passing temptation of good citizen, the tender husband and father

, hunting it.”—Darwin's Descent of Man, vol. ii. p. and the dutiful son are worthy of commen- + Of course I am not defending the text-books in dation. But if a conscious conformity to the

No one familiar with recent ethical “ general good," as the supreme standard speculation needs to be told that such books as

Stewart's Outlines of Moral Philosophy and Way. of right conduct, is an act the same in kind

land's Elements of Moral Science are practically obsowith that performed by a pointer dog when lete.

common use.

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]
[blocks in formation]

Author of Anne Judge, Spinster," " Grandmother's Money,Poor Humanity,Little Kate Kirby," &c.

BOOK II.

A FALLEN FORTUNE.

THREE MONTHS.

THE

CHAPTER XIII.

studious gravity of expression. He did not speak again of the will to her ; but he might be waiting the result of his sister's coming

into the property. He would have a great "HE stepping into a fortune of twenty deal to say then by way of making up for

thousand pounds did not tend to lost time, perhaps. raise the spirits of Dorcas Halfday. From There were occasions even when Mabel the night of the discovery of her grand- Westbrook fancied that this odd, angular father's will, she became taciturn and

man,

to whom the custody of Penton thoughtful—and all the variable moods Museum was entrusted, was disposed to which had distinguished her, the passion, evade her company. After Dorcas had de- . jealousy, and those stronger impulses of her clined to go out with him any more, or to nature which had rendered her difficult to accept any more of his advice, he kept away comprehend or control, became submerged from the cottage on the Penton Road for in her deep study of the future.

She was

weeks together, as though his interest in content to think, and thought did not ap- Mabel were dying out, or he preferred his pear of much use to her. Before her, it was studies in the dusty room where he had first evident, lay an intricate problem, and it was

warned her to be cautious, to the company beyond her power to solve it. There were of one whom he had never been able to too many lives and too many varied in- comprehend. Women had been always a terests involved for her to see the end, let riddle to him; he had not had the time or her act as she would, or as she wished. inclination to understand them ; let him go Mabel Westbrook, always a shrewd young back

back to his study of dead worlds, of facts woman in her way, affected not to notice in stone and marble, and of mysteries of this change in her companion, and Dorcas primeval periods which his clear mind had in her heart was grateful for her silence. It had the power to pierce. These waited for was her brother Brian who drove her mad his analysis, and woman was never still or with his advice, who wrote to her letters twice alike. Surely this was Brian Halfday's which she did not answer, and who called reasoning in the lull before the storm that to take her for long walks until she rebelled was rising from the lower ground, and of and refused to be preached at any longer. which no one took heed. Mabel believed What the advice was which tendered that this was his reasoning at all events, and to his sister, Mabel did not know, but she accepted the position philosophically. thought that she could guess at—and Brian Men were enigmas to her too, and they prodid not condescend in any way to enlighten fessed too much. Brian Halfday was not her ; sometimes she fancied that Brian had the earnest being who had talked to her in never wholly forgiven her remarks upon the churchyard at Datchet Bridge, but a Angelo Salmon's courtship, his manner was new man altogether—as cold and impeneso strange, and he looked at her with such trable as the fossils in his big glass cases.

[blocks in formation]
« AnteriorContinua »