Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 16.djvu/226

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

both optimist and pessimist must assume that life is satisfactory or otherwise, according as it does, or does not, bring a surplus of agreeable feeling. He disposes of the ascetic theory as being the product of the inferior religious creeds; and in so far as any persons in the present day retain the ascetic view, he runs them into absurdity by asking what they mean by the virtue of administering to a sick person; is it to increase the pains of illness? He then reviews the ethical end expressed by "perfecting" one's nature, and shows that there is no other test of perfection than "complete power of all the organs to fulfill their respective functions." Then as to making "virtue" the standard, he criticises Aristotle and Plato, and finds that they are playing off juggles of language. He next argues that virtue could not be upheld as virtue unless on the supposition that it is pleasurable in its total effects. Again as to the "intuitional" theory, he shows that the holders can not, and do not, ignore the ultimate derivations of right and wrong from pleasure and pain. He admits, however, that there is still among us a survival of the devil-worship of the savage, seen in our delight in contemplating the exercise of despotic power—the worship that owns Carlyle as its prophet, disguising itself by denouncing happiness as pig-philosophy, and substituting "blessedness" as the end. So much for good and bad conduct.

In a new chapter, the author pursues the criticism of the ethical theories, under the title, "Ways of judging Conduct." As a preliminary remark, he shows us with what exceeding slowness the idea of causation has been evolved. He is struck with the fact that all the theories—theological, political, intuitional, utilitarian—are characterized either by the entire absence of the idea of causation, or by an inadequate presence of it. Thus the theory of the "will of God" originates with the savage whose only restraint besides fear of his fellow men is fear of an ancestral spirit. Now, the notion that actions are good or bad simply by divine injunction is tantamount to saying that they have not in their own nature good or bad effects. After reviewing Hobbes and the Intuitionists, he tells us that even the utility school is very far from recognizing natural causation. In other words, he enunciates his known principle, of which the present volume is the expansion, that morality is not an induction from isolated facts, but a deduction from the processes of life as carried on under established conditions of existence. The proof of this principle needs a survey of ethics under four aspects—Physical, Biological, Psychological, Sociological.

In the four chapters devoted to the survey, Mr. Spencer's ethical foundations are laid. To begin with the Physical view. This treats conduct as so much motion suited to its purposes by paying respect to the law of conservation of force; in which view the ethical progress is progress to duly-proportioned conduct; and that conduct is increasingly coherent and definite, increasingly heterogeneous or varied, and