Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 4.djvu/562

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published in this Review for April, 1871, I have quoted passages from that letter; and here, considering the gravity of the assertions made by the Quarterly reviewer, I hope to be excused for requoting them:

"Morality, properly so called—the science of right conduct—has for its object to determine how and why certain modes of conduct are detrimental, and certain other modes beneficial. These good and bad results cannot be accidental, but must be necessary consequences of the constitution of things; and I conceive it to be the business of Moral Science to deduce, from the laws of life and the conditions of existence, what kinds of action necessarily tend to produce happiness, and what kinds to produce unhappiness. Having done this, its deductions are to be recognized as laws of conduct, and are to be conformed to irrespective of a direct estimation of happiness or misery."
"If it is true that pure rectitude prescribes a system of things far too good for men as they are, it is not less true that mere expediency does not of itself tend to establish a system of things any better than that which exists. While absolute morality owes to expediency the checks which prevent it from rushing into Utopian absurdities, expediency is indebted to absolute morality for all stimulus to improvement. Granted that we are chiefly interested in ascertaining what is relatively right, it still follows that we must first consider what is absolutely right; since the one conception presupposes the other."

And the comment I then made on these passages I may make now, that "I do not see how there could well be a more emphatic assertion that there exists a primary basis of morals independent of, and in a sense antecedent to, that which is furnished by experiences of utility, and consequently independent of, and in a sense antecedent to, those moral sentiments which I conceive to be generated by such experiences." I will only add that, had my beliefs been directly opposite to those I have enunciated, the reviewer might, I think, have found good reasons for his assertion. If, instead of demurring to the doctrine that "greatest happiness should be the immediate aim of man,"[1] I had indorsed that doctrine—if, instead of explaining and justifying "a belief in the special sacredness of these highest principles, and a sense of the supreme authority of the altruistic sentiments answering to them,"[2] I had denied the sacredness and the supreme authority—if, instead of saying of the wise man that "the highest truth he sees he will fearlessly utter, knowing that, let what may come of it, he is thus playing his right part in the world,"[3] I had said that the wise man will not do—this the reviewer might with some truth have described me as not understanding "the term 'morality' according to the true sense of the word." And he might then have inferred that the Doctrine of Evolution, as I hold it, implies denial of the "distinction between Duty and Pleasure." But, as it is, I think the evidence will not generally be held to warrant his assertion.

I quite agree with the reviewer that the prevalence of a philosophy

  1. "Social Statics," chapter iii.
  2. "Principles of Psychology," § 631.
  3. "First Principles," § 34.