Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 34.djvu/425

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411
CORRESPONDENCE.
CORRESPONDENCE.



A CORRECTION.

Editor Popular Science Monthly:

MR. McGEE, in his article on "Paleolithic Man in America," in the November issue, falls into an unfortunate error in stating that I had found twenty-five thousand specimens of true paleolithic implements in the gravel. The number found is about four hundred, and this represents twelve years of most laborious search for them. Happily, it is enough to establish the fact that paleolithic man existed at the time so graphically described in McGee's article.

The error is explained, I am sure, by the author having in mind the number of catalogued specimens of the Abbott collection at the Peabody Museum at Cambridge, Mass. This collection is not of glacial man only, but of his immediate successor — the Eskimo? — and of the Delaware Indians.

Charles C. Abbott.

Trenton, N.J., November 27, 1888.




RELATION OF ALTRUISM TO EGOISM.

Editor Popular Science Monthly:

Sir: Having read, with interest, Mr. Smiley's article on "Altruism" in your November number, I venture to point out what seem, in my view, to be his errors and mistaken reasonings:

At the outset, while ignoring the fact that an intelligent and reasonable self-sacrifice lies at the very basis of the Christian system, he virtually confounds it with the extreme self-abnegation of Buddhism. There is a fundamental difference between the two. The latter system involves the utter renunciation of individuality by an absorption in Nirvana. This is the total annihilation of personal identity, the abnegation of all self-hood. For this end Buddhism demands painful and extreme penance and the denial to all good. It aims primarily, for others, at the removal of this life's lower evils, its physical woes and material necessities, and for its devotee it works mainly, if not chiefly, toward his own personal deliverance from such ills, toward a virtual non-existence.

The Christian system is just the reverse of this. Pre-eminently it recognizes and maintains the individuality of every man, disintegrating him from the great mass of humanity, and making him, separately and personally, accountable to a great Creator and a Supreme Judge. While aiming, subordinately, at the counteraction of this life's lesser evils, it strikes at the greater and gigantic forms of moral ill, lifting humanity up to a higher spiritual plane of blessedness. Thus, by means of self-discipline and wise sacrifice, it promotes human good, recognizing all men as of one great brotherhood.

Mr. Smiley then takes isolated passages of the Bible, out of their proper connection, unmodified and unbalanced by others, thus giving to them a one-sided and pessimistic meaning. Particularly does he misapprehend the intent of Christ in his command to "take no thought for the morrow," making it to enjoin, as he says, "an utter disregard of self" and a putting away of provident foresight, such as characterizes every thoughtless beggar and lazy tramp!

Now, every tyro in Greek knows that the word (μεριμνᾐσητε) translated "take no thought" does not refer merely to mental action, but rather to emotional concern, that which is accompanied by pain and trouble, so that Christ only interdicts that overweening anxiety and distressing thoughtfulness which many indulge, and which not only is opposed to a simple faith in divine providence, but emasculates the heart and unfits one for effort even toward his own good. Thus the Teacher virtually enjoins a rightful egoism.

Paul did not construe Christ's command as does Mr. Smiley, for he enjoined a proper foresight in saying that "if any provide not for his own" (the Greek being τᾣν ίὃἰων) for his own private, personal, and particular interests, "and especially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith and is worse than an infidel." What stronger egoistic teaching than this could any one wish? This self-providence Paul implies in his command to the Roman Christians that they should be "not slothful in business," which is in accord with Solomon's precept, "Go to the ant, thou sluggard." Thus, Mr. Smiley has not had regard to the comparative teachings of the Bible, as well as to the true signification of its original terms.

He affirms further that Christ's declaration of a simple fact, that "the poor we have always with us," was very unfortunately said. Now, not even assuming any divine quality for Christ, but simply admitting him to be a man of profound wisdom and far-seeing philosophy, how could his statement, contrary thereto, have been unfortunate? Mr. Smiley, however, puts this phrase about the ever-presence of the poor as approving and commending their condition, while indeed it simply states an inevitable and incontrovertible fact, growing more and more so, in each successive age, not because Christian self-denial and altruistic charity have produced this result, but because increasing and crowding populations and social vices, especially