Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/194

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194
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

stitutes the essential "nature" of man, is most nearly represented by that which, in the language of a later philosophy, has been called the pure reason. It is this "nature" which holds up the ideal of the supreme good and demands absolute submission of the will to its behests. It is this which commands all men to love one another, to return good for evil, to regard one another as fellow-citizens of one great state. Indeed, seeing that the progress toward perfection of a civilized state, or polity, depends on the obedience of its members to these commands, the Stoics sometimes termed the pure reason the "political" nature. Unfortunately, the sense of the adjective has undergone so much modification that the application of it to that which commands the sacrifice of self to the common good would now sound almost grotesque.[1]

 

But what part is played by the theory of evolution in this view of ethics? So far as I can discern, the ethical system of the Stoics, which is essentially intuitive, and reverences the categorical imperative as strongly as that of any later moralists, might have been just what it was if they had held any other—theory whether that of special creation, on the one side, or that of the eternal existence of the present order, on the other.[2] To the Stoic, the


  1. The Stoics said that man was a Ϛᾢον λογικὸν πολιτικὸν φιλάλληλον or a rational, a political, and an altruistic or philanthropic animal. In their view, his higher nature tended to develop in these three directions as a plant tends to grow up into its typical form. Since, without the introduction of any consideration of pleasure or pain, whatever thwarted the realization of its type by the plant might be said to be bad, and whatever helped it good; so virtue, in the Stoical sense, as the conduct which tended to the attainment of the rational, political, and philanthropic ideal, was good in itself and irrespectively of its emotional concomitants.

    Man is an "animal sociale coramuni bono genitum." The safety of society depends upon practical recognition of the fact. "Salva autem esse societas nisi custodia et amore partium non possit," says Seneca. (De Ira, ii, 31.) [The safety of society depends upon the love and care of its component parts.]

  2. The importance of the physical doctrine of the Stoics lies in its clear recognition of the universality of the law of causation with its corollary, the order of Nature: the exact form of that order is an altogether secondary consideration.

    Many ingenious persons now appear to consider that the incompatibility of pantheism, of materialism, and of any doubt about the immortality of the soul, with religion and morality, is to be held as an axiomatic truth. I confess that I have a certain difficulty in accepting this dogma. For the Stoics were notoriously materialists and pantheists of the most extreme character; and while no strict stoic believed in the eternal duration of the individual soul, some even denied its persistence after death. Yet it is equally certain that of all Gentile philosophies, Stoicism exhibits the highest ethical development, is animated by the most religious spirit, and has exerted the profoundest influence upon the moral and religious development not merely of the best men among the Romans, but among the moderns down to our own day.

    Seneca was claimed as a Christian and placed among the saints by the fathers of the early Christian Church; and the genuineness of a correspondence between him and the apostle Paul has been hotly maintained in our own time by orthodox writers. That the