Popular Science Monthly/Volume 2/March 1873/The Study of Sociology VIII
|←Instinct in Young Birds|| Popular Science Monthly Volume 2 March 1873 (1873)
The Study of Sociology VIII
By Herbert Spencer
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VIII.—The Educational Bias.
IT would clear up our ideas about many things, if we distinctly recognized the truth that we have two religions. Primitive humanity has but one. The humanity of the remote future will have but one. The two are opposed; and we who live midway in the course of civilization have to believe in both.
These two religions are adapted to two conflicting sets of social requirements. The one set is supreme at the beginning; the other set will be supreme at the end; and a compromise has to be maintained between them during the progress from beginning to end. On the one hand, there is the necessity of social self-preservation in face of external enemies. On the other hand, there is the necessity of cooperation among fellow-citizens, which can exist only in proportion as fair dealing of man with man creates mutual trust. Unless the one necessity is met, the society disappears by extinction, or by absorption into some conquering society. Unless the other necessity is met, there cannot be that division of labor, exchange of services; consequent industrial progress and increase of numbers, by which a society is made strong enough to survive. In adjustment to these two antagonist necessities, there grow up two antagonist codes of duty; which severally acquire supernatural sanctions. And thus we get the two coexisting religions the—religion of enmity and the religion of amity.
Of course, I do not mean that these are both called religions. Here I am not speaking of names; I am speaking simply of things. Nowadays, men do not pay the same nominal homage to the religion of enmity that they do to the religion of amity—the religion of amity occupies the place of honor. But the real homage is paid in large measure, if not in the larger measure, to the religion of enmity. The religion of enmity nearly all men actually believe. The religion of amity most of them merely believe they believe. In some discussion, say, about international affairs, remind them of certain precepts contained in the creed they profess, and the most you get is a tepid assent. Now, let the conversation turn on the "tunding" at Winchester, or on the treatment of Indian mutineers, or on the Jamaica business; and you find that, while the precepts tepidly assented to were but nominally believed, quite opposite precepts are believed undoubtingly and defended with fervor.
Curiously enough, to maintain these antagonist religions, which in our transitional state are both requisite, we have adopted from two different races two different cults. From the books of the Jewish New Testament we take our religion of amity. Greek and Latin epics and histories serve as gospels for our religion of enmity. In the education of our youth we devote a small portion of time to the one, and a large portion of time to the other. And, as though to make the compromise effectual, these two cults are carried on in the same places by the same teachers. At our Public Schools, as also at many other schools, the same men are priests of both religions. The nobility of self-sacrifice, set forth in Scripture-lessons and dwelt on in sermons, is made conspicuous every seventh day; while during the other six days the nobility of sacrificing others is exhibited in glowing words. The sacred duty of blood-revenge, which, as existing savages show us, constitutes the religion of enmity in its primitive form—which, as shown us in ancient literature, is enforced by divine sanction, or rather by divine command, as well as by the opinion of men—is the duty which during the six days is deeply stamped on natures quite ready to receive it; and then something is done toward obliterating the stamp, when, on the seventh day, vengeance is interdicted.
A priori, it might be thought impossible that men should continue through life holding two doctrines which are mutually destructive. But their ability to compromise between conflicting beliefs is very remarkable—remarkable, at least, if we suppose them to put their conflicting beliefs side by side; not so remarkable if we recognize the fact that they do not put them side by side. A late distinguished physicist, whose science and religion seemed to his friends irreconcilable, retained both for the reason that he deliberately refused to compare the propositions of the one with those of the other. To speak in metaphor—when he entered his oratory he shut the door of his laboratory; and when he entered his laboratory he shut the door of his oratory. It is because they habitually do something similar, that men live so contentedly under this logically-indefensible compromise between their two creeds. As the intelligent child, propounding to his seniors puzzling theological questions, and meeting many rebuffs, eventually ceases to think about difficulties of which he can get no solutions; so, a little later, the contradictions between the things taught to him in school and in church, at first startling and inexplicable, become by-and-by familiar, and no longer attract his attention. Thus while growing up he acquires, in common with all around him, the habit of using first one and then the other of his creeds as the occasion demands; and at maturity the habit has become completely established. Now he enlarges on the need for maintaining the national honor, and thinks it mean to arbitrate about an aggression instead of avenging it by war; and now, calling his servants together, he reads a prayer in which he asks God that our trespasses may be forgiven as we forgive the trespasses against us. That which he prays for as a virtue on the Sunday, he scorns as a vice on the Monday.
The religion of amity and the religion of enmity, with the emotions they respectively enlist, are important factors in sociological conclusions; and rational sociological conclusions can be produced only when both sets of factors come into play. We have to look at each cluster of social facts as a phase in a continuous metamorphosis. We have to look at the conflicting religious beliefs and feelings included in this cluster of facts as elements in this phase. We have to do more. We have to consider as transitional, also, the conflicting religious beliefs and feelings in which we are brought up, and which distort our views, not only of passing phenomena in our own society, but also of phenomena in other societies and in other times; and the aberrations they cause in our inferences have to be sought for and rectified. Of these two religions taught us, we must constantly remember that during civilization the religion of enmity is slowly losing strength, while the religion of amity is slowly gaining strength. We must bear in mind that at each stage a certain ratio between them has to be maintained. We must infer that the existing ratio is only a temporary one, and that the accompanying bias to this or that conviction respecting social affairs is temporary. And if we are to reach those unbiased convictions which form parts of the Social Science, we can do it only by allowing for this temporary bias—only by analyzing and criticising the sentiments and dogmas they respectively sanctify, with the view of discovering how far these need qualification.
To see how greatly our opposite religions respectively pervert sociological beliefs, and how needful it is that the opposite perversions they cause should be corrected, we must here contemplate the extremes to which men are carried, now by the one and now by the other.
As from antagonist physical forces, as from antagonist emotions in each man, so from the antagonist social tendencies men's emotions create, there always results, not a medium state, but a rhythm between opposite states. The one force or tendency is not continuously counterbalanced by the other force or tendency; but now the one greatly predominates, and presently by reaction there comes a predominance of the other. That which we are shown by variations in the prices of stocks, shares, or commodities, occurring daily, weekly, and in longer intervals—that which we observe in the alternation of manias and panics, caused by irrational hopes and absurd fears—that which diagrams of these variations express by the ascents and descents of a line, now to a great height and now to an equivalent depth, we discover in all social phenomena, moral and religious included. It is exhibited on a large scale and on a small scale—by rhythms extending over centuries and by rhythms of short periods. And we see it, not only in waves of conflicting feelings and opinions pervading societies as wholes, but also in the opposite excesses gone to by individuals and sects in the same society at the same time. There is never a balanced judgment and a balanced action, but always a cancelling of one another by contrary errors: "Men pair off in insane parties," as Emerson puts it. Something like rationality is finally obtained as a product of mutually-destructive irrationalities. As, for example, in the treatment of our criminals, there alternates or coexists an unreasoning severity with an unreasoning lenity: now we punish in a spirit of vengeance, now we pamper with a maudlin sympathy. At no time is there a due adjustment of penalty to transgression such as the course of Nature shows us—an inflicting of neither more nor less evil than the reaction which the action causes.
The religion of unqualified altruism, coming as it did to correct by an opposite excess the religion of unqualified egoism, exhibits to us this general law on a great scale. Against the doctrine of entire selfishness it sets the doctrine of entire self-sacrifice. In place of the aboriginal creed not requiring you to love your fellow-man at all, but insisting only that certain of your fellow-men you shall hate even to the death, there comes a creed directing that you shall in no case do any thing prompted by hate of your fellow-man, but shall love him as yourself. Nineteen centuries have since wrought some compromise between these opposite creeds. It has never been rational, however, but only empirical—mainly, indeed, unconscious compromise. There is not yet a distinct recognition of what truth each extreme stands for, and a perception that the two truths must be coördinated; but there is little more than a partial rectifying of excesses one way by excesses the other way. By these persons purely-egoistic lives are led. By those, altruism is carried to the extent of bringing on ill health and premature death. Even on comparing the acts of the same individual, We find, not an habitual balance between the two tendencies, but now an effort to inflict great evil on some foreign aggressor or some male-factor at home, and now a disproportioned sacrifice on behalf of one often quite unworthy of it. That altruism is right, but that egoism is also right, and that there requires a continual compromise between the two, is a conclusion which but few consciously formulate and still fewer avow.
Yet the untenability of the doctrine of self-sacrifice in its extreme form is conspicuous enough; and is tacitly admitted by all in their ordinary inferences and daily actions. Work, enterprise, invention, improvement, as they have gone on from the beginning and are going on now, depend on the principle that, among citizens severally having unsatisfied wants, each cares more to satisfy his own wants than to satisfy the wants of others. The fact, that industrial activities proceed on this basis, being recognized, the inevitable implication is that un-qualified altruism would dissolve all existing social organizations: leaving the onus of proof that absolutely-alien social organizations would act. That they would not act becomes clear on supposing the opposite principle in force. Were A to be careless of himself, and to care only for the welfare of B, C, and D, while each of these, paying no attention to his own needs, busied himself in supplying the needs of the others, this roundabout process, besides being troublesome, would very ill meet the requirements of each, unless each could have his neighbor's consciousness. And after observing this we must infer that a certain predominance of egoism over altruism is beneficial, and that in fact no other arrangement would answer. Do but ask what would happen if, of A, B, C, D, etc., each declined to have a gratification, in his anxiety that some one else should have it, and that the some one else similarly persisted in refusing it out of sympathy with his fellows—do but contemplate the resulting confusion and cross-purposes and loss of gratification to all, and you will see that pure altruism would bring things to a dead-lock just as much as pure egoism. In truth, nobody ever dreams of acting out the altruistic theory in all the relations of life. The Quaker who proposes to accept literally, and to practise, the precepts of Christianity, carries on his business on egoistic principles just as much as his neighbors. Though, nominally, he holds that he is to take no thought for the morrow, his thought for the morrow betrays as distinct an egoism as that of men in general; and he is conscious that to take as much thought for the morrows of others would be ruinous to him and eventually mischievous to all.
While, however, no one is entirely altruistic—while no one really believes an entirely altruistic life to be practicable, there continues the tacit assertion that conduct ought to be entirely altruistic. It does not seem to be suspected that pure altruism is actually wrong. Brought up, as each is, in the nominal acceptance of a creed which wholly subordinates egoism to altruism, and gives sundry precepts that are absolutely altruistic, each citizen, while ignoring these in his business, and tacitly denying them in various opinions he utters, daily gives to them lip-homage, and supposes that acceptance of them is required of him though he finds it impossible. Feeling that he cannot call them in question without calling in question his religion as a whole, he pretends to others and to himself that he believes them—believes things which in his innermost consciousness he knows he does not believe. He professes to think that entire self-sacrifice must be right, though dimly conscious that it would be fatal.
If he had the courage to think out clearly what he vaguely perceives, he would discover that self-sacrifice, passing a certain limit, entails evil on all—evil on those for whom sacrifice is made as well as on those who make it. While a continual giving-up of pleasures and continual submission to pains is physically injurious, so that its final outcome is debility, disease, and abridgment of life, the continual acceptance of benefits at the expense of a fellow-being is morally injurious. Just as much as unselfishness is cultivated by the one, selfishness is cultivated by the other. If to surrender a gratification to another is noble, readiness to accept the gratification so surrendered is ignoble; and if repetition of the one kind of act is elevating, repetition of the other kind of act is degrading. So that, though up to a certain point altruistic action blesses giver and receiver, beyond that point it curses giver and receiver—physically deteriorates the one and morally deteriorates the other. Every one can remember cases where greediness for pleasures, reluctance to take trouble, and utter disregard of those around, have been perpetually increased by unmeasured and ever-ready kindnesses; while the unwise benefactor has shown by languid movements and pale face the debility consequent on disregard of self: the outcome of the policy being destruction of the worthy in making worse the unworthy.
The absurdity of unqualified altruism becomes, indeed, glaring enough on remembering that it can be extensively practised only if in the same society there coexist one moiety altruistic and one moiety egoistic. Only those who are intensely selfish will allow their fellows habitually to behave to them with extreme unselfishness. If all are duly regardful of others, there are none to accept the sacrifices which others are ready to make. If a high degree of sympathy characterizes all, no one can be so unsympathetic as to let another receive positive or negative injury that he may benefit. So that pure altruism in a society implies a nature which makes pure altruism impossible, from the absence of those toward whom it may be exercised!
Equally untenable does the doctrine show itself when looked at from another point of view. If life and its gratifications are valuable in another, they are equally valuable in self. There is no total increase of happiness if as much is gained by one as is lost by another; and if, as continually happens, the gain is not equal to the loss—if the recipient, already inferior, is further demoralized by habitual acceptance of sacrifices, and so made less capable of happiness (which he inevitably is)—the total amount of happiness is diminished: benefactor and beneficiary are both losers.
The maintenance of the individuality is thus demonstrably a duty. The assertion of personal claims is essential; both as a means to self-happiness, which is a unit in the general happiness, and as a means to furthering the general happiness altruistically. Resistance to aggression is not simply justifiable but imperative. Non-resistance is at variance with altruism and egoism alike. The extreme Christian theory, which no one acts upon, which no one really believes, but which most tacitly profess and a few avowedly profess, is as logically indefensible as it is impracticable.
The religion of amity, then, taken by itself, is incomplete—it needs supplementing. The doctrines it inculcates and the sentiments it fosters, arising by reactions against opposite doctrines and sentiments, run into extremes the other way.
Let us now turn to these opposite doctrines and sentiments, inculcated and fostered by the religion of enmity, and note the excesses to which they run.
Worthy of highest admiration is the "Tasmanian devil," which, fighting to the last gasp, snarls with its dying breath. Admirable, too, though less admirable, is our own bulldog—a creature said sometimes to retain its hold even when a limb is cut off. To be admired also for their "pluck," perhaps nearly in as great a degree, are some of the carnivora, as the lion and the tiger; since when driven to bay they fight against great odds. Nor should we forget the gamecock, supplying as it does a word of eulogy to the crowd who witness the hanging of a murderer, and who half condone his crime if he "dies game." Below these animals come mankind; some of whom, indeed, as the American Indians, bear tortures without groaning. And then, considerably lower, must be placed the civilized man; who, fighting up to a certain point, and bearing considerable injury, ordinarily yields when further fighting is useless.
Is the reader startled by this classification? Why should he be? It is but a literal application of that standard of worth tacitly assumed by most, and by some deliberately avowed. Obviously it is the standard of worth believed in by M. Gambetta, who, after bloodshed carried to the extent of prostrating France, lately reproached the French Assembly by saying, "You preferred peace to honor; you gave five milliards and two provinces." And there are not a few among ourselves who so thoroughly agree in M. Gambetta's feeling, that this utterance of his has gone far to redeem him in their estimation. If the reader needs encouragement to side with such, plenty more may be found for him. The Staffordshire collier, enjoying the fighting of doers when the fighting of men is not to be witnessed, would doubtless take the same view. In the slums of Whitechapel and St. Giles's, among leaders of "the fancy," it is an unhesitating belief that pluck and endurance are the highest of attributes; and probably most readers of Bell’s Life in London would concur in this belief. Moreover, if he wants further sympathy to support him, he may find entire races ready to give it; especially that noble race of cannibals, the Feejeeans, among whom bravery is so highly honored that, on their return from battle, the triumphant warriors are met by the women, who place themselves at their unrestricted disposal. So that whoever inclines to adopt this measure of superiority will find many to side with him—that is, if he likes his company.
Seriously, is it not amazing that civilized men should especially pride themselves on a quality in which they are exceeded by inferior varieties of their own race, and still more exceeded by inferior animals? Instead of regarding a man as manly in proportion as he possesses moral attributes distinctively human, we regard him as manly in proportion as he shows an attribute possessed in greater degrees by beings from whom we derive our words of contempt. It was lately remarked by Mr. Greg that we take our point of honor from the prize-ring; but we do worse—we take our point of honor from beasts. Nay, we take it from a beast inferior to those we are familiar with; for the "Tasmanian devil," in structure and intelligence, stands on a much lower level of brutality than our lions and bulldogs.
That resistance to aggression is to be applauded, and that the courage implied by resistance is to be valued and admired, may be fully admitted while denying that courage is to be regarded as the supreme virtue. A large endowment of it is essential to a complete nature; but so are large endowments of other things which we do not therefore make our measures of worth. A good body, well grown, well proportioned, and of such quality in its tissues as to be enduring, should bring, as it does bring, its share of admiration. Admirable, too, in their ways, are good stomach and lungs, as well as a vigorous vascular system; for without these the power of self-preservation and the power of preserving others will fall short. To be a fine animal is, indeed, essential to many kinds of achievement; and courage, which is a general index of an organization capable of satisfying the requirements, is rightly valued for what it implies. Courage is, in fact, a feeling that grows by accumulated experiences of successful dealings with difficulties and dangers; and these successful dealings are proofs of competence in strength, agility, quickness, endurance, etc. No one will deny that perpetual failures, resulting from incapacity of one kind or other, produce discouragement; or that repeated triumphs, which are proofs of capacity, so raise the courage that there comes a readiness to encounter greater difficulties. The fact that a dose of brandy, by stimulating the circulation, produces "Dutch courage," as it is called, joined with the fact well known to medical men, that heart-disease brings on timidity, is of itself enough to show that bravery is the natural correlative of ability to cope with circumstances of peril. But while we are thus taught that, in admiring courage, we are admiring physical superiorities and those superiorities of mental faculty which give fitness for dealing with emergencies, we are also taught that, unless we rank highest the bodily powers and those powers which directly conduce to self-preservation, we cannot say that courage is the highest attribute, and that the degree of it should be our standard of honor.
That an over-estimate of courage is appropriate to our phase of civilization may be very true. It is beyond doubt that, during the struggle for existence among nations, it is needful that men should admire extremely the quality without which there can be no success in the struggle. While, among neighboring nations, we have one in which all the males are trained for war — while the sentiment of this nation is such that students slash one another's faces in duels about trifles, and are admired for their scars, especially by women — while the military ascendency it tolerates is such that, for ill-usage by soldiers, ordinary citizens have no adequate redress — while the government is such that, though the monarch as head of the Church condemns duelling as irreligious, and as head of the Law forbids it as a crime, yet as head of the army he insists on it to the extent of expelling officers who will not fight duels — while, I say, we have a neighboring nation thus characterized, something of a kindred character in appliances, sentiments, and beliefs, has to be maintained among ourselves. When we find another neighboring nation believing that no motive is so high as the love of glory, and no glory so great as that gained by successful war — when we perceive the military spirit so pervading this nation that it loves to clothe its children in quasi-military costume — when we find one of its historians writing that the French army is the great civilizer, and one of its generals lately saying that the army is the soul of France — when we see that the vital energies of this nation run mainly to teeth and claws, and that it quickly grows new sets of teeth and claws in place of those pulled out; it is needful that we, too, should keep our teeth and claws in order, and should maintain ideas and feelings adapted to the effectual use of them. There is no gainsaying the truth that, while the predatory instincts continue prompting nations to rob one another, destructive agencies must be met by antagonist destructive agencies; and, that this may be done, honor must be given to the men who act as destructive agents, and there must be an exaggerated estimate of the attributes which make them efficient.
It may be very needful, therefore, that our boys should be accustomed to harsh treatment, giving and receiving brutal punishments without too nice a consideration of their justice. It may be that, as the Spartans and as the North-American Indians, in preparation for warfare, subjected their young men to tortures, so should we; and thus, perhaps, the "education of a gentleman" may properly include giving and receiving "hacking" of the shins at football: boot-toes being purposely made heavy that they may inflict greater damage. So, too, it may be well that boys should all in turn be subject to the tender mercies of elder boys, with whose thrashings and kickings the masters decline to interfere; even though they are sometimes carried to the extent of maiming for life. Possibly, too, it is needful that each boy should be disciplined in submission to any tyrant who may be set over him, by finding that appeal brings additional evils. That each should be made callous, morally as well as physically, by the bearing of frequent wrongs, and should be made yet more callous when, coming into power, he inflicts punishments as whim or spite prompts, may also be desirable. Nor, perhaps, can we wholly regret that confusion of moral ideas which results when breaches of conventional rules bring penalties as severe as are brought by acts morally wrong. For war does not consist with keen sensitiveness, physical or moral. Reluctance to inflict injury, and reluctance to risk injury, would equally render it impossible. Scruples of conscience respecting the rectitude of their cause would paralyze officers and soldiers. So that a certain brutalization has to be maintained during our passing phase of civilization. It may, indeed, be that "the Public School spirit," which, as truly said, is carried into our public life, is not the most desirable for a free country. It may be that early subjection to despotism, and early exercise of uncontrolled power, are not the best possible preparations for legislators. It may be that those, who, on the magistrate's bench, have to maintain right against might, could be better trained than by submission to violence and subsequent exercise of violence. And it may be that some other discipline than that of the stick would be desirable for men who officer the press and guide public opinion on questions of equity. But, doubtless, while national antagonisms continue strong and national defence a necessity, there is a fitness in this semi-military discipline, with pains and bruises to uphold it. And a duly-adapted code of honor has the like defence.
Here, however, if we are to free ourselves from transitory sentiments and ideas, so as to be capable of framing scientific conceptions, we must ask what warrant there is for this exaltation of the destructive activities and of the qualities implied by them? We must ask how it is possible for men rightly to pride themselves on attributes possessed in a higher degree by creatures so much lower? We must consider whether, in the absence of a religious justification, there is any ethical justification for the idea that the most noble traits are such as cannot be displayed without the infliction of pain and death. When we do this, we are obliged to admit that the religion of enmity in its unqualified form is as indefensible as the religion of amity in its unqualified form. Each proves itself to be one of those insane extremes out of which there comes a sane mean by union with its opposite. The two religions stand respectively for the claims of self and the claims of others. The one religion holds it glorious to resist aggression, and, while risking death in doing this, to inflict death upon others. The other religion teaches that the glory is in not resisting aggression, and in yielding to others while not asserting the claims of self. A civilized humanity will render the one glory just as impossible of achievement as the other. A diminishing egoism and an increasing altruism must make each of these opposite kinds of honor unattainable. For such an advance implies a cessation of those aggressions which make possible the nobility of resistance; while it implies a refusal to accept those sacrifices without which there cannot be the nobility of self-sacrifice. The two extremes must cancel; leaving a moral code and a standard of honor free from irrational excesses. Along with a latent self-assertion, there will go a readiness to yield to others, kept in cheek by the refusal of others to accept more than their due.
And now, having noted the perversions of thought and sentiment fostered by the religion of amity and the religion of enmity, under which we are educated in so chaotic a fashion, let us go on to note the ways in which these affect sociological conceptions. Certain important truths, apt to be shut out from the minds of the few who are unduly swayed by the religion of amity, may first be set down.
One of the facts difficult to reconcile with current theories of the Universe is, that high organizations, throughout the animal kingdom, habitually serve to aid destruction or to aid escape from destruction. If we hold to the ancient view, we must say that high organization has been deliberately devised for such purposes. If we accept the modern view, we must say that high organization has been evolved by the exercise of destructive activities during immeasurable periods of the past. Here we choose the last alternative. To the never-ceasing efforts to catch and eat, and the never-ceasing endeavors to avoid being caught and eaten, is to be ascribed the development of the various senses and the various motor organs directed by them. The bird of prey with the keenest vision has, other things equal, survived when members of its species that did not see so far died from want of food; and, by such survivals, keenness of vision has been made greater in course of generations. The fleetest members of an herbivorous herd, escaping when the slower fell victims to a carnivore, left posterity; among which, again, those with the most perfectly-adapted limbs survived: the carnivores themselves being at the same time similarly disciplined and their speed increased. So, too, with intelligence. Sagacity that detected a danger which stupidity did not perceive, lived and propagated; and the cunning which hit upon a new deception, and so secured prey not otherwise to be caught, left posterity where a smaller endowment of cunning failed. This mutual perfecting of pursuer and pursued, acting upon their entire organizations, has been going on throughout all time; and human beings have been subject to it just as much as other beings. Warfare among men, like warfare among animals, has had a large share in raising their organizations to a higher stage. Here are some of the various ways in which it has worked:
In the first place, it has had the effect of continually extirpating races which, for some reason or other, were least fitted to cope with the conditions of existence they were subject to. The killing-off of relatively-feeble tribes, or tribes relatively wanting in endurance, or courage, or sagacity, or power of coöperation, must have tended ever to maintain, and occasionally to increase, the amounts of life-preserving powers possessed by men.
Beyond this average advance caused by destruction of the least-developed races and the least-developed individuals, there has been an average advance caused by inheritance of those further developments due to functional activity. Remember the skill of the Indian in following a trail, and remember that under kindred stimuli many of his perceptions and feelings and bodily powers have been habitually taxed to the uttermost, and it becomes clear that the struggle for existence between neighboring tribes has had an important effect in cultivating faculties of various kinds. Just as, to take an illustration from among ourselves, the skill of the police cultivates cunning among burglars, which, again, leading to further precautions, generates further devices to evade them; so, by the unceasing antagonisms between human societies, small and large, there has been a mutual culture of an adapted intelligence, a mutual culture of certain traits of character not to be undervalued, and a mutual culture of bodily powers.
A large effect, too, has been produced upon the development of the arts. In responding to the imperative demands of war, industry made important advances and gained much of its skill. Indeed, it may be questioned whether, in the absence of that exercise of manipulative faculty which the making of weapons originally gave, there would ever have been produced the tools required for developed industry. If we go back to the Stone-Age, we see that implements of the chase and implements of war are those showing most labor and dexterity. If we take still-existing human races which were without metals when we found them, we see in their skilfully-wrought stone clubs, as well as in their large war-canoes, that the needs of defence and attack were the chief stimuli to the cultivation of arts afterward available for productive purposes. Passing over intermediate stages, we may note in comparatively-recent stages the same relation. Observe a coat-of-mail, or one of the more highly-finished suits of armor—compare it with articles of iron and steel of the same date; and there is evidence that these desires to kill enemies and escape being killed, more extreme than any other, have had great effects on those arts of working in metal to which most other arts owe their progress. The like relation is shown us in the uses made of gunpowder. At first a destructive agent, it has become an agent of immense service in quarrying, mining, railway-making, etc.
A no less important benefit, bequeathed by war, has been the formation of large societies. By force alone were small nomadic hordes welded into large tribes; by force alone were large tribes welded into small nations; by force alone have small nations been welded into large nations. While the fighting of societies usually maintains separateness, or by conquest produces only temporary unions, it produces, from time to time, permanent unions; and as fast as there are formed permanent unions of small into large, and then of large into still larger, industrial progress is furthered in three ways. Hostilities, instead of being perpetual, are broken by intervals of peace. When they occur, hostilities do not so profoundly derange the industrial activities. And there arises the possibility of carrying out the division of labor much more effectually. War, in short, in the slow course of things, brings about a social aggregation which furthers that industrial state at variance with war; and yet nothing but war could bring about this social aggregation. These two truths, that without war large aggregates of men cannot be formed, and that without large aggregates of men there cannot be a developed industrial state, are illustrated in all places and times. Among existing uncivilized and semi-civilized races, we everywhere find that union of small societies by a conquering society is a step in civilization. The records of peoples now extinct show us this with equal clearness. On looking back into our own history, and into the histories of neighboring nations, we similarly see that only by coercion were the smaller feudal governments so subordinated as to secure internal peace. And, even lately, the long-desired consolidation of Germany, if not directly effected by "blood and iron," as Bismarck said it must be, has been indirectly effected by them. The furtherance of industrial development by aggregation is no less manifest. If we compare a small society with a large one, we get clear proof that those processes of coöperation by which social life is made possible assume high forms only when the numbers of the cooperating citizens are great. Ask of what use a cloth-factory, supposing they could have one, would be to the members of a small tribe, and it becomes manifest that, producing as it would in a single day a year's supply of cloth, the vast cost of making it and keeping it in order could never be compensated by the advantage gained. Ask what would happen were a shop like Stewart's, in New York, supplying all textile products, set up in a village, and you see that the absence of a sufficiently-extensive distributing function would negative its continuance. Ask what sphere a bank would have had in the Old-English period, when nearly all people grew their own food and wove their own wool, and it becomes obvious that the various appliances for facilitating exchange can grow up only when a community becomes so large that the amount of exchange to be facilitated is great. Hence, unquestionably, that integration of societies effected by war has been a needful preliminary to industrial development, and consequently to developments of other kinds—Science, the Fine Arts, etc.
Industrial habits too, and habits of subordination to social requirements, are indirectly brought about by the same cause. The truth that the power of working continuously, wanting in the aboriginal man, could be established only by that persistent coercion to which conquered and enslaved tribes are subject, has become trite. An allied truth is, that only by a discipline of submission, first to an owner, then to a personal governor, presently to government less personal, then to the embodied law proceeding from government, could there eventually be reached submission to that code of moral law by which the civilized man is more and more restrained in his dealings with his fellows.
Such being some of the important truths usually ignored by men too exclusively influenced by the religion of amity, let us now glance at the no less important truths to which men are blinded by the religion of enmity.
Though, during barbarism and the earlier stages of civilization, war has the effect of exterminating the weaker societies, and of weeding out the weaker members of the stronger societies, and thus in both ways furthering the development of those valuable powers, bodily and mental, which war brings into play; yet, during the later stages of civilization, the second of these actions is reversed. So long as all adult males have to bear arms, the average result is that those of most strength and quickness survive, while the feebler and slower are slain; but when the industrial development has become such that only some of the adult males are draughted into the army, the tendency is to pick out and expose to slaughter the best-grown and healthiest; leaving behind the physically inferior to propagate the race. The fact that among ourselves, though the number of soldiers raised is not relatively large, many recruits are rejected by the examining surgeons, shows that the process inevitably works toward deterioration. Where, as in France, conscriptions have gone on generation after generation, taking away the finest men, the needful lowering of the standard proves how disastrous is the effect on those animal qualities of a race which form a necessary basis for all higher qualities. If the depletion is indirect also—if there is such an overdraw on the energies of the industrial population that a large share of heavy labor is thrown on the women, whose systems are taxed simultaneously by hard work and child-bearing, a further cause of physical degeneracy comes into play: France again supplying an example. War, therefore, after a certain stage of progress, instead of furthering bodily development and the development of certain mental powers, becomes a cause of retrogression.
In like manner, though war, by bringing about social consolidations, indirectly favors industrial progress and all its civilizing consequences, yet the direct effect of war on industrial progress is repressive. It is repressive as necessitating the abstraction of men and materials that would otherwise go to industrial growth; it is repressive as deranging the complex interdependencies among multitudinous, productive, and distributive agencies; it is repressive as draughting off much administrative and constructive ability, which would else have gone to improve the industrial arts and the industrial organization. And if we contrast the absolutely-military Spartans with the partially-military Athenians in their respective attitudes toward culture of every kind, or call to mind the contempt shown for the pursuit of knowledge in purely-military times like those of feudalism, we cannot fail to see that predominant warlike activity is at variance not only with industrial development, but also with the higher intellectual developments that aid it and are aided by it.
So, too, with the effects wrought on the moral nature. While war, by the discipline it gives soldiers, directly cultivates the habit of subordination, and does the like indirectly by establishing strong and permanent governments; and while in so far it cultivates attributes that are not only temporarily essential, but are steps toward attributes that are permanently essential; yet it does this at the cost of maintaining, and sometimes increasing, detrimental attributes—attributes intrinsically antisocial. The aggressions which selfishness prompts—aggressions which, in a society, have to be restrained by some power that is strong in proportion as the selfishness is intense, can diminish only as fast as selfishness is held in check by sympathy; and perpetual warlike activities repress sympathy: nay, they do worse—they cultivate aggressiveness to the extent of making it a pleasure to inflict injury. The citizen made callous by the killing and wounding of enemies, inevitably brings his callousness with him into society. Fellow-feeling, habitually trampled out in military conflicts, cannot at the same time be active in the relations of civil life. In proportion as the giving pain to others is made a habit during war, it will remain a habit during peace: inevitably producing, in the behavior of citizens to one another, antagonisms, crimes of violence, and multitudinous aggressions of minor kinds, tending toward a disorder that calls for a coercive government. Nothing like a high type of social life is possible without a type of human character in which the promptings of egoism are duly restrained by regard for others. The necessities of war imply absolute self-regard and absolute disregard of certain others. Inevitably, therefore, the civilizing discipline of social life is antagonized by the uncivilizing discipline of the life war involves. So that, beyond the direct mortality and miseries entailed by war, it entails other mortality and miseries by maintaining antisocial sentiments in citizens.
Taking the most general view of the matter, we may say that only when the sacred duty of blood-revenge, constituting the religion of the savage, becomes less sacred, does there arise a possibility of emergence from the deepest barbarism. Only as fast as the retaliation, which for a murder on one side inflicts a murder or murders on the other, becomes less imperative, is it possible for larger aggregates of men to hold together and civilization to commence. And so, too, out of lower stages of civilization higher ones can emerge, only as there diminishes this pursuit of international revenge and re-revenge, which the code we inherit from the savage insists upon. Such advantages, bodily and mental, as the race derives from the discipline of war, are outbalanced by the disadvantages, physical and moral, but especially moral, which result after a certain stage of progress is reached. Severe and bloody as the process is, the killing-off of inferior races and inferior individuals leaves a balance of benefit to mankind during phases of progress in which the moral development is low, and there are no quick sympathies to be continually seared by the infliction of pain and death. But as there arise higher types of societies, implying types of individual character fitted for closer coöperation, the destructive activities exercised by such higher societies have injurious reactive effects on the moral natures of their members, which outweigh the benefit resulting from extirpation of inferior races. After this stage has been reached, the purifying process, continuing still an important one, remains to be carried on by industrial war—by a competition of societies during which the best, physically, emotionally, and intellectually, spread most, and leave the least capable to disappear gradually, from failing to leave an adequately-numerous posterity.
Those educated in the religion of enmity—those who during boyhood, when the instincts of the savage are dominant, have revelled in the congenial ideas and sentiments which classic poems and histories yield so abundantly, and have become confirmed in the belief that war is virtuous and peace ignoble—are naturally blind to truths of this kind. Rather should we say, perhaps, that they have never turned their eyes in search of such truths. And their bias is so strong that nothing more than a nominal recognition of such truths is possible to them; if even this. What perverted conceptions of sociological phenomena this bias produces, may be seen in the following passage from Gibbon:
In which sentences there is involved the abstract proposition that in proportion as men are long held together in that mutual dependence which social coöperation implies, they will become less fit for mutual dependence and coöperation—the society will tend toward dissolution. While, in proportion as they are habituated to antagonism and to destructive activities, they will become better adapted to activities requiring union and agreement.
Thus the two opposite codes in which we are educated, and the sentiments enlisted on behalf of their respective precepts, inevitably produce misinterpretations of social phenomena. Instead of acting together, now this and now the other sways the beliefs; and, instead of consistent, balanced conclusions, there results a jumble of contradictory conclusions.
It is time, not only with a view to right thinking in social science, but with a view to right acting in daily life, that this acceptance in their unqualified forms, of two creeds which contradict one another completely, should come to an end. Is it not a folly to go on pretending to ourselves and others that we believe certain perpetually-repeated maxims of entire self-sacrifice, which we daily deny by our business activities, by the steps we take to protect our persons and property, by the approval we express of resistance against aggression? Is it not a dishonesty to repeat, in tones of reverence, maxims which we not only refuse to act out, but dimly see would be mischievous if acted out? Every one must admit that the relation between parent and child is one in which altruism is pushed as far as is practicable. Yet even here there needs a predominant egoism. The mother can suckle her infant only on condition that she has habitually gratified her appetite in due degree. And there is a point beyond which sacrifice of herself is fatal to her infant. The bread-winner, too, on whom both depend—is it not undeniable that wife and child can be altruistically treated by their protector, only on condition that he is duly egoistic in his transactions with his fellow-citizens? If the dictate, "Live for self," is wrong in one way, the opposite dictate, "Live for others," is wrong in another way. The rational dictate is—live for self and others. And, if we all do actually believe this, as our conduct conclusively proves, is it not better for us distinctly to say so, rather than continue enunciating principles which we do not and cannot practise; and thus bringing moral teaching itself into discredit?
On the other hand, it is time that a ferocious egoism, which remains unaffected by this irrational altruism, hypocritically professed but not believed, should be practically modified by a rational altruism. This sacred duty of blood-revenge, insisted on by the still-vigorous religion of enmity, needs qualifying actually and not verbally. Instead of senselessly reiterating in catechisms and church services the duty of doing good to those that hate us, while an undoubting belief in the duty of retaliation is implied by our parliamentary debates, the articles in our journals, and the conversations over our tables, it would be wiser and more manly to consider how far the first should go in mitigation of the last. Is it stupidity or is it moral cowardice which leads men to continue professing a creed that makes self-sacrifice a cardinal principle, while they urge the sacrificing of others, even to the death, when they trespass against us? Is it blindness, or is it an insane inconsistency, which makes them regard as most admirable the bearing of evil for the benefit of others, while they lavish admiration on those who, out of revenge, inflict great evils in return for small ones suffered? Surely our barbarian code of right needs revision, and our barbarian standard of honor should be somewhat changed. Let us deliberately recognize what good they represent and what mixture of bad there is with it. Courage is worthy of respect when displayed in the maintenance of legitimate claims and in the repelling of aggressions, bodily or other. Courage is worthy of yet higher respect when danger is faced in defence of claims common to self and others, as in resistance to invasion. Courage is worthy of the highest respect when risk to life or limb is dared in defence of others; and becomes grand when those others have no claims of relationship, and still more when they have no claims of race. But though a bravery which is altruistic in its motive is a trait we cannot too highly applaud, and though a bravery which is legitimately egoistic in its motive is praise-worthy, the bravery that is prompted by aggressive egoism is not praiseworthy. The admiration accorded to the "pluck" of one who fights in a base cause is a vicious admiration, essentially demoralizing to those who feel it. Like the physical powers, courage, which is a concomitant of these, is to be regarded as a servant of the higher emotions—very valuable, indispensable even, in its place; and to be honored when discharging its function in subordination to these higher emotions. But otherwise not more to be honored than the like attribute as seen in brutes.
Quite enough has been said to show that there must be a compromise between the opposite standards of conduct on which the religions of amity and enmity respectively insist, before there can be scientific conceptions of social phenomena. Even on passing affairs, such as the proceedings of philanthropic bodies and the dealings of nation with nation, there cannot be rational judgments without a balance between the self-asserting emotions and the emotions which put a limit to self-assertion, with an adjustment of the corresponding beliefs. Still less can there be rational judgments of past social evolution, or of social evolution in the future, if the opposing actions which these opposing creeds sanction are not both continuously recognized as essential. No mere impulsive recognition, now of the purely-egoistic doctrine and now of the purely-altruistic one, will suffice. The curve described by a planet cannot be understood by thinking at one moment of the centripetal force and at another moment of the tangential force; but the two must be kept before consciousness as acting simultaneously. And similarly, to understand social progress in the vast sweep of its course, there must he ever present to the mind the egoistic and the altruistic forces as cooperative factors equally indispensable, and neither of them to he ignored or reprobated.
The criticism likely to be passed on this chapter, that "The Educational Bias" is far too comprehensive a title for it, is quite justifiable. There are in truth few, if any, of the several kinds of bias that are not largely, or in some measure, caused by education using this word in an extended sense. As, however, all of them could not be dealt with in one chapter, it seemed best to select these two opposite forms of bias which are so directly traceable to teachings of opposite dogmas, and fosterings of opposite sentiments, during early life. Merely recognizing the fact that education has much to do with the other kinds of bias, we may now most conveniently deal with these, each under its specific title.
- "Decline and Fall," chapter ii.
- "Decline and Fall," chapter ii.