Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 20.djvu/785

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763
SCIENCE AND MORALITY.

wolf—a wolf with two legs it may be, and with the other physiological attributes of the highest of the mammals—yet as much at liberty as the lowest of the mammals to gratify his appetites so long as he does not eat any one who will disagree with him.

The author of the "Data of Ethics" discusses, in three lively and interesting chapters, altruism and its relations to egoism. But Dr. Van Buren Denslow flouts all this as "theological," and wonders that his sage should have allowed himself to be so much affected by the atmosphere of modern Christianity. The doctor hits the nail hard as usual, and there seems reason to suspect that he hits it on the head. "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself," is commonly cited as the precept of the Gospel. But the full commandment is, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and thy neighbor as thyself." Supposing the theistic hypothesis to be true, and the communion of the Christian Church to represent a reality, to love one's neighbor as one's self is rational; if the two are members of each other, each in loving the other loves himself, and there is no need of any elaborate comparison or arbitration. But on any other hypothesis it seems difficult to press the claims of altrusim on an egoistic organism. You must alter the organism, or wait till it is eliminated by evolution. If a man is selfish, his pleasures will be selfish; and there, so far as we can see, according to the philosophy of the "Data of Ethics," is an end of the question.

Hear once more Dr. Van Buren Denslow:

The unphilosophical element in Herbert Spencer's scheme is its dogmatical assumption that there is a moral law, philosophically deducible by argument from the facts of nature; that this moral law is unique and single, not dual, though all the forces of nature whose study is to lead up to the knowledge of this law are dual and not single; that while at some points it may not yet be clearly definable, yet all the facts indicate both its existence and its philosophical deducibility from nature. On this point he says, p. 282: "For reasons already pointed out, a code of perfect personal conduct can never be made definite. Many forms of life, diverging from one another in considerable degrees, may be so carried on in society as entirely to fulfill the conditions of harmonious co-operation. And if various types of men, adapted to various types of activities, may thus lead lives that are severally complete after their kinds, no specific statement of the activities universally required for personal well-being is possible. But though the particular requirements to be fulfilled for perfect individual well-being, must vary, along with variations in the material conditions of each society, certain general requirements have to be fulfilled by the individuals of all societies. . . . Perfection of individual life hence implies certain modes of action which are approximately alike in all cases, and which therefore become part of the subject matter of ethics. That it is possible to reduce even this restricted part to scientific definiteness, can scarcely be said. But ethical requirements can here be to such extent affiliated upon physical necessities as to give them a partially scientific character. . . . That it will ever be practicable to lay down precise rules for private conduct in conformity with such requirements, may be doubted. But the function of absolute ethics in relation to private conduct will have been