Page:American Journal of Sociology Volume 11.djvu/266
250 THE AMERICAN JOURNAL OF SOCIOLOGY
meant, above all else, that the life of her people could receive the form, which she had so skilfully developed, only as a means to an end, not as an end in itself; only as a great experiment, not as a finish to all things.
And every institution is like Rome. Every institution is a product of the skepticism that makes material things out of human conceits or personal effects; every institution enters life through the solvent of Stoicism and Epicureanism; and every institution is bound to be converted to Christianity. However large the scale, then, or however small, the institution shows society answering its question about human life, not dogmati- cally, but experimentally; and, in giving form to its answer, depending, as Rome depended, on the double sanction of duty and pleasure. Habits, methods, characters, tools, as well as laws and governments, are institutions.
But, thirdly and lastly, the attitude or spirit of science is also satisfying to the ethical question. The " study of the condi- tions of action manifested in the course of action " is not a mere way to morality; it is itself a part of morality. The treatment, too, of all the developed forms of experience as means, not ends ; as instruments of experimentation, not completed and intrinsi- cally valuable products, is also positively moral; it is not more and not less moral than the ethical question itself, to which the experimental forms are given in reply. The question is a leading question, first, because its answer must spring from the conditions under which it has been formulated; and, second, because as a question it can receive only a tentative answer. It calls for hon- esty as well as for an answer, and any answer, as was indeed asserted almost at the beginning of the present paper, would grossly betray this call, if more than tentative. Can life even court finality? Its ever-rising conflict between the old and the new may make it ask and seek, but it can find only to ask and seek again. Some is often much ; yet, much or little, some satis- fies not only for what it is, but also because it always calls for more. If you do not believe this, read your Dickens or the much-abused book of Genesis. The living spirit of science, then, is an important factor in the reply to ethical inquiry.