Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 20.djvu/781

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SCIENCE AND MORALITY.

mammal, and in that case the hypothesis will be true. The present question is, whether it affords a new basis for morality.

Applying the tests, then, to the cases mentioned, we find that the action of the Italian physician is at least partly wrong: it gives him pain, and, instead of prolonging or intensifying, terminates his own life; it is ethically inferior to that of a Caffre woman suckling her child. On the other hand, the action of the murderer is at least partly right: to himself it is unquestionably productive of a great deal of pleasure, and, by releasing him from toil which might have been injurious to his health, it very likely prolongs his life, and certainly intensifies his enjoyment. The benefit extends to his family, and to all those who will profit by his judicious and liberal use of the wealth which comes into his hands. If the murdered man was a fool, a niggard, or a selfish voluptuary, who would have made no use of his riches or have used them ill, it really may be said that all the visible and calculable consequences of the action are good. One human life, indeed, is sacrificed, but from Mr. Spencer's point of view nothing can be said about the indefeasible sacredness of human life. Sacredness in general, and the sacredness of human life in particular, are religious conceptions, and as such have no place in his philosophy. Man may be "the highest of mammals," but is there any assignable reason why you should not put him, as well as any other inconvenient mammal, out of your way? When a stag gores his fellow-stag to death, that he may have exclusive possession of the does, we do not think that he does anything wrong, but, on the contrary, regard his action as a striking instance of the law of natural selection carried into effect through the struggle for existence. Mr. Spencer may say, and does say, that a few aeons hence, by the progress of evolution, or, to use his own formula, by "our advance toward heterogeneity," matters will be so adjusted, and men will have become so sensible of altruistic pleasure, that it will be not less disagreeable to you to kill your neighbor than to be killed yourself. But the murderer, if this is pressed upon him, will say: "A few æons hence I shall be out of the way; I will do that which, as it brings me present pleasure, with increased duration and intensity of life, is, as far as I am concerned, right." It is not very apparent what answer could be made. We are in quest, be it observed, at present, not of a moral horoscope of humanity, but of motives which, by making the men of our day—not the Herbert Spencers, but the ordinary men—do good and abstain from evil, shall save the world from a moral interregnum.

Pleasure is relative to the organism. There is no such thing as a type or ideal of perfection. This also Mr. Spencer lays down with the same distinctness with which he lays it down that pleasure and pain are the sole and universal tests of right and wrong in conduct. The master will perhaps be somewhat startled by seeing his twofold doctrine developed under the fearless hands of one of his disciples.