Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 2.djvu/587

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567
THE STUDY OF SOCIOLOGY.

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