Page:Kwaidan; Stories and Studies of Strange Things - Hearn - 1904.djvu/249

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

ity, of the ant.[1] Our most appalling ideals of conduct fall short of the ethics of the ant,—as progress is reckoned in time,—by nothing less than millions of years! … When I say " the ant," I mean the highest type of ant,—not, of course, the entire ant-family. About two thousand species of ants are already known; and these exhibit, in their social organizations, widely varying degrees of evolution. Certain social phenomena of the greatest biological importance, and of no less importance in their strange relation to the subject of ethics, can be studied to advantage only in the existence of the most highly evolved societies of ants.

After all that has been written of late years about the probable value of relative experience in the long life of the ant, I suppose that few persons would venture to deny individual character to the ant. The intelligence of the little creature in meeting and overcoming difficulties of a totally new kind, and in adapting itself to conditions entirely foreign to its experience, proves a considerable power of in-

  1. An interesting fact in this connection is that the Japanese word for ant, ari, is represented by an ideograph formed of the character for " insect " combined with the character signifying " moral rectitude," " propriety " (giri). So the Chinese character actually means " The Propriety-Insect."