Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/202

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.

190

THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

considered in its relations to its surroundings as well as separately. Even in matters not usually considered from a scientific stand-point the same law holds. To go no further than our own pages, the writer who is dealing with the question "How to get strong?" would not consider how the arms are to be strengthened without duly considering that the arms are part of the body, their exercise related to the exercise of other portions, their development associated with the development of other limbs, with the action of other parts of the body, with the regimen proper for the whole frame.

It may not by many be regarded as a fault of most systems of morality that they overlook the necessary connection between conduct in general and conduct as guided by moral considerations. For many are content to regard moral laws as existing apart from any of the results of experience whether derived from individual conduct, the conduct of men generally, or conduct as seen among creatures of all orders. With many, morality is looked upon as a whole the whole duty of man not as a part of conduct. They even consider that moral obligations must be weakened when their dependence on conduct in general is insisted upon. Moral rules, with them, are right in themselves and of necessity and whether inculcated by extra-human authority, or enjoined by law, or perceived intuitively, are open neither to inquiry nor objection. Clearly if this were so, morality would not be a fitting subject for the scientific method. Its rules would be determinable apart from the discussion of evidence based on experience, whether observational or experimental. I do not here inquire whether this view is right or wrong. Later on it will fall into my plan to do so. At present I only note that we are considering our subject from the stand-point of those who desire to view morality in its scientific aspect. For them it is essential that, as conduct in general includes conduct depending on duty, the discussion of questions of duty can not be complete or satisfactory unless it is conducted with due reference to the whole of which this subject forms a part.

If any doubt could exist in the mind of the student on this point, it should be removed when he notes that it is impossible to draw any sharply defined line between duty and the rest of conduct not depending on considerations of duty. Not only are those actions which under particular circumstances seem absolutely indifferent found under other circumstances to be right or wrong and not indifferent, not only do different persons form different ideas as to what part of conduct is indifferent or otherwise, but one and the same person in different parts of his life finds that he draws different distinctions between conduct in general and conduct to be guided by moral considerations. In the evolution of conduct in a nation, in a town, in a family, or in the individual man, the line separating conduct regarded as indifferent from conduct regarded as right or wrong is ever varying in position sometimes tending to include among actions indifferent those which had