Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 9.djvu/98

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By G. J. ROMANES, M. A., F. L. S.

AMONG several other topics which are dealt with in an interesting article entitled "Animal Depravity" that appeared in the Quarterly Journal of Science for October last, the writer alludes to the question as to whether or not the rudiments of a moral sense are discernible in animals. This question I consider to be of so much importance from a psychological point of view that, although a great deal of observation which I have directed toward its enlightenment has hitherto yielded but small results, I am tempted to publish the latter, such as they are, in the hope that, if they serve no better end, they may perhaps induce some other observers to bestow their attention upon this very interesting subject.

I may first briefly state what I conceive to be the theoretical standing of the subject. At the present day, when the general theory of evolution is accepted by all save the ignorant or the prejudiced, the antecedent probability is overwhelming that our moral sense, like all our other psychological faculties, has been evolved. The question as to the causes of its evolution has been discussed in the "Descent of Man," and this with all the breadth of thought and force of fact so characteristic of the writings which have exerted an influence upon human thought more profound than has been exerted by the writings of any other single man—not even excepting Aristotle in philosophy or Newton in science. Mr. Herbert Spencer, also, has treated of this subject, and, if his wonderful "programme" is ever destined to attain completion, we may expect copious results when his great powers are brought to bear upon the "Principles of Morality." Meanwhile, however, we have ample evidence to render it highly probable that at any rate the leading causes in the development of our moral sense have had their origin in the social instincts. Indeed, to any one who impartially considers this evidence in the light of the general theory of evolution, it must appear wellnigh incredible that so considerable a body of proof can ever admit of being overcome. Nor is this all. Not only is it true that so much success has attended Mr. Darwin's method of determining synthetically the causes which have been instrumental in evolving the moral sense,[1] but, long before any scientific theory of evolution had been given to the world, our great logician—following in the track of Hume (whose part in this matter has not, I think, been sufficiently appreciated), Bentham, and others—proved

  1. I willingly indorse the just tribute recently paid to this part of Mr. Darwin's work by Prof. Clifford: "To my mind the simplest and clearest and most profound philosophy that was ever written upon this subject is to be found in chapters ii. and iii. of Mr. Darwin's 'Descent of Man.'"—Fortnightly Review, p. 794.