Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/212

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.



of individuals will be the object. Individual happiness has the last word.

In the "System of Synthetic Philosophy," evolution is the universal world-law, the law of laws, dispensing with all need of stern commandments of revealed religion and theological morality. The evolution of human nature and society brings with itself this, that human conduct becomes better and better adapted to individual and social aims; that good conduct (adapted to the preservation of the race) gradually overpowers bad conduct (unadapted to self and race maintenance) in that struggle for existence in which morality and virtue have on their side every advantage. As the fitter organism survives the less fit, so must moral conduct in the natural course of things gain the upper hand, and immoral conduct tend more and more toward extinction. Thus, according to immutable laws, higher forms of conduct must be evolved from the original conduct of man in his lower estate, as higher organisms are evolved from lower. Changes such as have taken place in the course of civilization will take place again. The want of faith in a further like development, whereby man's nature will be brought into harmony with his condition, is only one of the innumerable proofs of an inadequate knowledge of causality; and he who has learned to put aside primitive dogmas and primitive ways of looking at things, and who has appropriated those modes of thought which science produces, can not believe that the "wholesome working Force" which has hitherto so changed all forms of life according to the altered requirements of their being, will not continue to operate in the same direction.

Ethical evolution affords an imposing outlook for the future of mankind. Man does not waver, like Hercules, between virtue and happiness. He is spared all pain of choice. Virtue and happiness are the one inseparable goal which he approaches with steady advance. Nature herself leads him on, and he has in his own nature the assurance of victory. Ceaselessly bent upon his own advancement, restlessly at work improving the conditions of his existence, he at the same time nourishes his moral life. No moral law opposes the impulses to this advance. No antinomy between moral and natural law needs solution, no strife between moral and sensual impulses need be decided. Always and everywhere an aspiration, a goal. No subjection of the ego to a law which commands without regard to weal or woe, no sacrifice of individual claims, no giving up of self at the bidding of an absolute moral law. Development is never interrupted. In ceaseless progress it approaches the goal—the greatest sum of well-being. The rigoristic "Thou canst, for thou oughtst," has no place here. Guidance is enough, compulsion is not needed.

This ethics is confessedly utilitarian, before all things a higher form of utilitarianism; but no raw materialist philosophy of usefulness, addressing itself to brutal egoism, to sensual enjoyment, to the