Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/487

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nize sinfulness in all who did not share their views and follow their practices. Here we find evidence of the law of moral philosophy that a system of ethics, with recognition of moral rightness and wrongness, only begins to be formed where the best conduct (so far as fullness of life is concerned) runs the chance, for whatever reason, of being neglected, and inferior conduct followed. In this case, the best conduct is apt to be neglected because the increased fullness of life to which it conduces is more remote than the temporary increase of life fullness to which inferior conduct tends.

Yet, speaking generally, it may be said that, as Mr. Herbert Spencer puts it: "The ethical judgments we pass on self-regarding acts are ordinarily little emphasized; partly because the promptings of the self-regarding desires, generally strong enough, do not need moral enforcement, and partly because the promptings of the other self-regarding desires, less strong, and often overridden, do need moral enforcement."

When we turn to the life-regarding actions of the second class, those which relate to the rearing of offspring, we no longer find the words good and bad, right and wrong, used with doubtful meaning. Here the question of duty is clearly recognized. The conduct of parents, who, by neglecting to provide for their children's wants in infancy, diminish their chances of full and active life, or of life itself, is called bad and wrong not solely or chiefly because it is not favorable to the increase of life, but as open to moral censure. In like manner, men blame as really wrong, not merely unwise or ill-adjusted, such conduct as tends to make the physical and mental training of children imperfect or inadequate.

Still clearer, however, is the use of the words right and wrong as applied to conduct by which men influence in various ways the lives of their fellows. Here the adjustments suitable for increasing the fullness of individual life, or for fostering the lives of offspring (alike in quantity and fullness), are often inconsistent with the corresponding adjustments of others. The development by evolution of conduct tending to the advancement of individual lives or lives of offspring would of itself tend constantly to acts inconsistent with the well-being or even with the existence of others, were it not for the development (also brought about, as we have seen, by processes of evolution) of conduct tending to the increase of the quantity and fullness of life in the community. But there arises a constant conflict between tendencies to opposite lines of conduct. It is so essential for the welfare of the community that tendencies to advance the life interests of self and children should be in due subordination (which is not the same thing, be it noticed, as complete subordination) to tendencies leading to the furtherance of the fullness of life in others, that rules of conduct toward others than self or children have to be emphatic and peremptory in tone. Hence it is, as Mr. Spencer justly remarks, that the