Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 50.djvu/13

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APPLETONS’

POPULAR SCIENCE

MONTHLY.

 

NOVEMBER, 1896.



THE MORAL STANDARD.
By WILLIAM HENRY HUDSON,

PROFESSOR OF ENGLISH LITERATURE IN THE LELAND STANFORD JR. UNIVERSITY.

IN the present paper I purpose to discuss briefly the nature of the moral standard, strictly so called. The simplest way of approaching the subject will perhaps be to pass in rapid review the other principal criteria of conduct, by contrast with which the essential character of the moral criterion itself will be brought into conspicuous relief.

From the study of the world's culture history it becomes clear that the extra-moral, or what we shall here call the pre-ethical standards of conduct, have arisen from three different roots. As we shall presently see, these roots ultimately run into one, as looking at the matter from the evolutionary standpoint we should of course expect; but inasmuch as the criteria developed by them are in their later forms sharply marked off from one another, it will be desirable for the sake of clearness to treat them separately. The three principal roots, then, out of which, apart from the true moral root, the influences governing and directing men's lives have arisen, are: (1) The theological or religious root; (2) the social or ceremonial root; and (3) the legal or political root. We will examine these one by one:

1. All religions as they pass out of the primitive cult stage of ancestor-worship originate certain specific rules of conduct, which, as they consolidate, grow up into a more or less definite code. For the source and power of such a code we have not far to seek. Arising at the outset from the personal mandates of the deified ancestor or chief, the directions concerning action emanating from this quarter gradually assume a more emphatic, mysterious,