Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 20.djvu/780

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in his own veins, goes calmly to the hospital to die. On the other hand, a man, between whom and a great fortune there stands a single life, takes that life in such a way as to escape suspicion, gets possession of the fortune, and, instead of a life of drudgery to which he would otherwise have been doomed, passes his days in the healthy development of all his faculties, in the enjoyment of every pleasure, intellectual and social, as well as physical, amid the troops of friends and grateful dependents with which his hospitality and munificence surround him, and, after an existence prolonged by comfort, ease, and immunity from care, dies universally honored and lamented. Why is the first man happy, and the second miserable? Theism, on his own hypothesis, has an answer ready. What is the answer of agnostic science? We must prefix an epithet, because without it a distinction drawn between science and theism begs the question. A rational theist maintains that theism is science.

We are likely to find the answer, if anywhere, in the "Data of Ethics," by Mr. Herbert Spencer—a book belonging to a series which has earned for its author, from Darwin himself, the title of "our great philosopher"; and which every one, whether he accepts its general conclusions or not, will allow to exhibit powers of acute criticism, and to be written in a most lucid and attractive style.'

Mr. Spencer commences, as might have been expected, not with humanity, but with the mollusks, and treats men simply as the last (he says the highest, but we have a caveat to enter against that phrase) of the evolutionary series. His tests of right and wrong in the actions of the most evolved of animals, as in the case of the least evolved, are pleasure and pain—pleasure denoting that the action is favorable, pain that it is unfavorable, to the vitality of the organism. His "supreme end" is "increased duration," together, if we understand his phraseology rightly, with increased intensity, "of life." An authoritative conscience, duty, virtue, obligation, principle, and rectitude of motive, no more enter into his definitions, or form parts of his system, than does the religious sanction. Of that which constitutes moral beauty, he has no word. Actions of a kind purely pleasant are absolutely right. The highest instance of right conduct is a mother suckling her child, because "there is at once to the mother gratification, and to the child satisfaction of appetite, a satisfaction which accompanies furtherance of life, growth, and increasing enjoyment." That the action is a mere performance of a function of nature, involving the exertion of no high quality, does not lower its place in the scale. Conduct, even the noblest and most heroic, which has any concomitant of pain or any painful consequence, is, to that extent, wrong, and the highest claim to be made for such conduct is that it is the least wrong which under the conditions is possible. We need not shrink from the hypothesis, or even commit ourselves to the rejection of it. Possibly the conclusion ultimately reached may be that man is nothing but the highest