Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 15.djvu/724

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and the sustained interest in the subject necessary to deal with it adequately and successfully. Mr. Spencer entered upon this line of study in his youth, and has devoted his life to it. He has explored and reorganized several of the great divisions of science with reference to their ultimate bearings upon the problem of scientific morality; and he is undoubtedly the first to work out the philosophical relations of the sciences to a new system of ethical doctrine.

In this brief notice of a work that requires to be thoughtfully read, we can no more than open the subject; and this can best be done by anticipating certain questions that will arise at the outset in the minds of many readers. It will be said, in the first place: "We know something about morality, having often heard it expounded and applied. It lays down the regulations of behavior. Government enforces it by its laws, and society rests upon it. It seems a very practical, common-sense thing that everybody can understand, as we must all obey its injunctions; but what on earth do you mean by 'scientific morality'?"

The reply is, that "scientific morality" is that kind of morality which can give valid reasons for its requirements. Science stands in just the same relations to morality that it does to every other kind of human activity—it explains it. Dyeing was long a successful practical art; but it consisted in following a set of blind rules, and its operations were imperfect. Science explained it, and gave principles instead of rules, which gave the reason of many failures, and led to greatly improved practice. In like manner morality follows blind and arbitrary rules, and its practice is notoriously imperfect. Science will substitute intelligible principles for these rules which will account for numerous failures, and lead to better practice.

The question may be answered in another way. It is the object of Mr. Spencer's present work to lay the foundations of an ethical system that shall have the validity and authority of scientific truth, by showing that the principles of right and wrong in human conduct are grounded in the constitution of nature. It is obvious that, until the order and course of nature were understood, such an inquiry must have been unsuccessful and impossible. Science alone explains that order, and therefore furnishes the facts and truths that are necessary to the investigation. But if science, by this elucidation, has supplied the data from which the principles of morality can be derived, and its practice consequently perfected, the working out of the subject must give us a "scientific morality."

In the next place it will be asked: "What has morality to do with evolution? As the best ethical maxims go back to a high antiquity, and as, according to Mr. Buckle, while the intellect is progressive, morals are stationary, what possible relation can the evolution theory have to ethics?" Mr. Spencer furnishes the answer to this question at the very opening of his book, and in a way which shows that, if evolution be true at all, it has everything to do with morality.

His first chapter is on "Conduct in general," and he begins by illustrating the truth that no correct idea can be formed of a part without a knowledge of the whole to which it belongs. A detached arm could not be understood by a being ignorant of the human body; the moon's movements can not be interpreted, except in connection with the movements of the solar system; a fragment of a sentence is unintelligible if separated from the remainder.

Morality deals with a certain kind of human conduct, but this implies that there is another kind, of which moral conduct is but a part. Again, the term "human conduct" implies that there is a conduct manifested by creatures other than human, so that human conduct becomes a part of a still larger whole. Conduct is defined as actions adjusted to ends, and is displayed in ever-varying degrees of simplicity and complication throughout the entire scale of animate being. Animals low in type, in seeking food, adjust actions to ends, and, as we rise through the series, such adjusted actions become more varied, combined, and perfect, until man is reached, when the adjustments become far more complex and involved, and the ends attained more numerous, varied, and remote. Mr. Spencer says: "Complete comprehension of conduct is not to be obtained by contemplating the conduct of human beings only: we have to regard this as a part of universal conduct—conduct as exhibited by all living creatures. Just as, fully to understand the part of con-