Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 29.djvu/41
DEVELOPMENT OF THE MORAL FACULTY.
The highest outcome of this habit of sympathetic indignation against wrong is a disinterested repugnance to wrong when done by the individual himself. A child injures another in some way, either in momentary anger or through thoughtlessness. As soon as he is able to reflect, his habit of sympathy asserts itself, and causes him to suffer with the injured one. He puts himself at the point of view of the child he has wronged, and from that point of view looks back on himself, the doer of the wrong, with a new feeling of self-condemnation. On the other hand, when he fulfills his duty to another or renders him a kindness, he gains a genuine satisfaction by imaginatively realizing the feelings of the recipient of the service, and so looking back on his action with complacency and approval.
When this stage of moral progress is reached, the child will identify himself with the moral law in a new and closer way. He will no longer do right merely because an external authority commands, or because he sees it to some extent to be his interest to do so. The development of the unselfish feelings has now connected an internal pain, the pang of self-condemnation, and of remorse, with the consciousness of acting wrongly; and this pain, being immediate and certain, acts as a constant and never-failing sanction.
The higher developments of the moral sentiment involve not only a deepening and quickening of the feelings, but a considerable enlightenment of the intelligence. In order to detect the subtler distinctions between right and wrong, delicate intellectual processes have to be carried out. Rapidity and certainty of moral insight are the late result of wide experience, and a long and systematic exercise of the moral faculty on its emotional and intellectual side alike.
Since the moral feeling stands in a peculiarly close relation to the will, the practical problem of exercising and developing it is intimately connected with the education of the will and the formation of the moral character. This larger problem we have not yet reached, but we may even at this stage inquire into the best means of developing the moral sentiment regarded apart from its influence as a motive to action, and merely as an emotional and intellectual product.
Inasmuch as the government of the parent and the teacher is the external agency that first acts upon the germ of the moral sentiment, it is evident that the work of training the moral feelings and judgment forms a conspicuous feature in the plan of early education. The nature of the home discipline more particularly is a prime factor in determining the first movements of growth of the childish sense of duty. In order that any system of discipline may have a beneficial moral influence and tend in the direction of moral growth, it must satisfy the requirements of a good and efficient system. What these are is a point which will be considered later on. Here it must suffice to say that rules must be laid down absolutely, and enforced uniformly and consistently, yet with a careful consideration of circumstances and indi-