Popular Science Monthly/Volume 44/January 1894/Evolution in Professor Huxley

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By St. GEORGE MIVART, Ph. D., F. R. S.

SO many adventures of gods and heroes, alternately defeated and restored, with so many other myths of earlier religions, merely (we are told) describe, in figurative language, the simplest physical phenomena, that most of us now expect to find "the dawn," or "sunset," latent in every one newly met with.

Our fairy tales also may be similarly treated, but most of them will also serve to represent, under an allegory, notable events or circumstances of human life.

The history of that gentle animal, beloved of our childhood, the White Cat—an enchanted princess, doomed to bear that feline form till freed, through the loss of head and tail, by the sharp sword of her royal lover—admits such an allegorical interpretation.

Some learned professor might tell us its real purpose was to show that pain and loss can serve to restore a noble soul, deformed by evil influences. He might also enlarge upon the text, describing how the spellbound maid herself demands the blow, and point

out we ought to learn from this that our higher aspirations should bid us brave death itself if, by a voluntary martyrdom only, we can so hasten on the triumph of "the good, the beautiful, and the true."

But this transformed princess, as also the Sleeping Beauty, Riquet with the Tuft, and Beauty and the Beast, all may alike serve to image forth an aspect of the Cosmos which is particularly interesting to us to-day. They all indicate, by some astonishing transformation, how every one and everything is affected through new conditions of environment, how change pervades the universe, and how all of us must undergo a process of evolution, though not, by any means, one in the entirely beneficent direction, nor with the rapidity these fairy tales indicate. But rapidity is essentially a relative term; and so the swift sword-stroke of the one prince or the awakening kiss of the other can quite well symbolize the slow, as well as rapid, processes of the natural world.

That universal and unceasing process of change which goes on throughout the Cosmos must affect the mind as well as the body of every one of us. Nor could a reasonable man wish that it were altogether otherwise with him, since "to cease to change is to cease to live. But we naturally shrink from decay, and should do so from mental degradation, while evolution (as above said, and as every one knows) is not universally or necessarily beneficent. Among the many evils around us (the existence of which none but an irrational optimist will deny) are the results of evolution in certain minds—minds which, in the battle of life, have become more and more morally degraded and intellectually darkened, and so continue till the end.

We might, in truth, put forward as an argument in favor of a brute element in our being, the fact that increasing years so often fail, in men as in monkeys, to produce any visible increase of "sweetness and light." On the other hand, we are most of us fortunate enough to know men in whom long life has served to ripen the most precious mental fruits.

It is the process of evolution in the mind which should above all things interest us. The great cosmic process considered as evolving suns and planets and bringing forth vegetal and sentient life is of course a wonderful and admirable process. Yet it is nothing to the formation of a single self-conscious being. So far as our knowledge extends, it is true that

"In Nature there is nothing great but man:
In man there is nothing great but mind."

Phases in the development of one human intelligence must therefore form a really nobler object of study than that of myriads of stellar orbs devoid of intellect.

But if mental processes should be thus interesting, a fortiori should they be so if they are those of a great expositor and apostle of the doctrine of evolution itself. Above all ought they to concern us if that expositor exercises great influence, is looked up to by multitudes of disciples, and has been in the habit of coupling with his expositions, precepts respecting matters which most of us think extremely important.

These considerations lead me to think that the time has come for some one to say a few words with respect to the process of evolution which seems to have taken place in the mind of Prof. Huxley. I venture, therefore, on the following observations.

Though it can not be affirmed that any sharp edge of criticism has transformed him as the sword-blade transformed the enchanted princess, nevertheless some changes of aspect are, I think, to be detected in certain of Prof. Huxley's recent utterances.

To these I desire to call attention, since they appear to justify the hope that ripened experience and mature reflection have called forth statements which, if (as is possible) they do not denote any consciously changed views, must surely, at the least, indicate their latent presence.

There are two matters with respect to his last publication[1] especially noteworthy: (1) The first of these concerns our ethical perceptions; the second (2) relates to the nature of man as contrasted with that of other organisms.

Besides these matters, I would also refer to certain corollaries which, in my humble judgment, result from the views he has put forward with respect to humanity and ethics.

The present inquiry is no hostile one, but is made in a spirit of sympathy—such as a decade of pleasant memories should occasion. Long ago,[2] and also recently,[3] I said, "No one, I believe, has a greater regard for Prof. Huxley than I have, and no one is more convinced than I am of the uprightness of his intentions and his hearty sympathy with self-denying virtue."

If I may have the great satisfaction of finding that, as to ethical perceptions, he has approximated to the standpoint I long ago advocated, that satisfaction will be free from any taint of triumph. I am far too keenly aware of my own past difficulties to wonder at another intellect having been obscured by clouds which so long overshadowed my own. Indeed, the clearing away of those obscurities is indirectly due to Prof. Huxley himself. Such is the case, since it was in that lecture room in Jermyn Street—where, owing to his kindness no less than his ability, I gained much of the biological knowledge I possess—I made the acquaintance of a dear and valued friend, whose acute intellect first taught me to fully understand in what the essence of "goodness" consists, as his virtue led me to appreciate its active exercise. But my enlightenment ultimately resulted in controversy; and, in order that my readers may be able to judge what signs of ascensive evolution Prof. Huxley has lately shown, I must briefly refer to a passage of arms which took place between us one-and-twenty years ago.

I had, in a little book, then recently published,[4] contended that the process of "natural selection" could never have evolved our ethical perceptions and our clear intellectual idea of "duty" as distinct from mere feelings of "sympathy," "fear," etc. I said:

These two ideas, the "right" and the "useful," being so distinct here and now, a great difficulty meets us with regard to their origin from some common source. For the distinction between the "right" and the "useful" is so fundamental and essential that not only does the idea of benefit not enter into the idea of duty, but we see that the very fact of an act not being beneficial to us makes it the more praiseworthy, while gain tends to diminish the merit of an action. Yet this idea, "right," thus excluding, as it does, all reference to utility or pleasure, has nevertheless to be constructed and evolved from utility and pleasure, and ultimately from pleasurable sensations, if we are to accept pure Darwinism: if we are to accept, that is, the evolution of man's psychical nature and highest powers by the exclusive action of "natural selection" from such faculties as are possessed by brutes; in other words, if we are to believe that the conceptions of the highest human morality arose through minute and fortuitous variations of brutal desires and appetites in all conceivable directions.

It is here contended, on the other hand, that no conservation of any such variations could ever have given rise to the faintest beginning of any such moral perceptions; that by "natural selection" alone the maxim fiat justitia, mat cælum, could not have been excogitated, still less have found a widespread acceptance; that it is impotent to suggest even an approach toward an explanation ot the first beginning of the idea of "right." It need hardly be remarked that acts may be distinguished, not only as pleasurable, useful, or beautiful, but also as good in two different senses: (1) Materially moral acts; and (2) acts which areq formally moral. The first are acts good in themselves, as acts, apart from any intention of the agent, which may or may not have been directed toward "right." The second are acts which are good, not only in themselves, as acts, but also in the deliberate intention of the agent who recognizes his actions as being "right." Thus acts may be materially moral or immoral in a very high degree without being in the least formally so. For example, a person may tend and minister to a sick man with scrupulous care and exactness, having in view all the time nothing but the future reception of a good legacy. Another may, in the dark, shoot his father, taking him to be an assassin, and so commit what is materially an act of parricide, though formally it is only an act of self-defense or more or less culpable rashness. A woman may innocently, because ignorantly, marry a married man, and so commit a material act of adultery. She may discover the facts and persist, and so make her act formal also.

Actions of brutes, such as those of the bee, the ant, or the beaver, however materially good as regards their relation to the community to which such animals belong, are absolutely destitute of the most incipient degree of real—i. e., formal—"goodness," because unaccompanied by mental acts of conscious will directed toward the fulfillment of duty.

By the examples thus given, it was surely plain that I represented the formally moral character of an act to reside in the intention wherewith it was performed, as distinguished from mere good results, and also in the goodness of that intention. This was made still plainer in my Quarterly article[5] on The Descent of Man. Therein, to guard against the absurdity of supposing I meant that it was necessary, in order that an action should be good, for its goodness to be deliberately thought of and reflected on, I said:

An action which has ceased to be directly or indirectly deliberate has ceased to be moral as a distinct act, but it is moral as the continuation of those preceding deliberate acts through which the good habit was originally formed, and the rapidity with which the will is directed in the case supposed may indicate the number and constancy of antecedent meritorious volitions.

Prof. Huxley reviewed[6] my book and this Quarterly article, simultaneously and at much length, in an exceedingly interesting paper entitled Mr. Darwin's Critics, which I strongly advise those interested in the question to read before reading my reply to it. Therein, entirely siding with Mr. Darwin, he did not hesitate to say[7] (as to my distinction between "material" and "formal" morality):

For myself, I utterly reject it, inasmuch as the logical consequence of the adoption of any such principle is the denial of all moral value to sympathy and affection. According to Mr. Mivart's axiom, the man who, seeing another struggling in the water, leaps in at the risk of his own life to save him, does that which is "destitute of the most incipient degree of real goodness," unless, as he strips off his coat he, says to himself, "Now, mind, I am going to do this because it is my duty, and for no other reason"; and the most beautiful character to which humanity can attain, that of the man who does good without thinking about it, because he loves justice and mercy and is repelled by evil, has no claim on our moral approbation. The denial that a man acts morally because he does not think whether he does so or not may be put upon the same footing as the denial of the title of an arithmetician to a calculating boy, because he did not know how he worked out his sums.

I wondered, and I wonder still, how Prof. Huxley could have written this, he having before his eyes the passage of mine, just above cited, from the article of the Quarterly Review which he was criticising!

However, my point now is simply to remark how far the right honorable professor then was from assigning "motive" as the one essential character of a good action. Most certainly, neither sympathy nor affection is always moral, and as to unconscious beneficent actions, I remarked, and repeat. How can a man "love justice" if he can not distinguish it from injustice? Can he appreciate "mercy" without knowing it?

A calculating boy who does not understand arithmetic can not be properly termed an arithmetician, whatever his automatic power of rendering solutions may be. But my opponent not only took the opposite view to this, but went still further; for he wrote:[8]

If a machine produces the effects of reasoning, I see no more ground for denying to it the reasoning power because it is unconscious, than I see for refusing to Mr. Babbage's engine the title of a calculating machine on the same grounds.

It would be hardly possible to imagine a better illustration of the absence of discrimination between what is merely "material" and what "formal" in reasoning; and this defect runs singularly parallel with the absence of a like discrimination—the discrimination as to motives in the domain of ethics on the part of Prof. Huxley in 1871.

Finally, so complete was then his identification of "duty" with "pleasure," that, when attempting to assume, for the moment, the position of an "absolute moralist," he wrote:[9]

To do your duty is to earn the approbation of your conscience or moral sense; to fail in your duty is to feel its disapprobation, as we all say. Now is approbation a pleasure or a pain? Surely a pleasure. And is disapprobation a pleasure or a pain? Surely a pain. Consequently all that is really meant by the absolute moralists is that there is, in the very nature of man, something which enables him to be conscious of those particular pleasures and pains.

Inasmuch, therefore, as Prof. Huxley would then have said that the proper object of life is to do one's duty, he must likewise have thereby meant that its object also was to escape from the pain and sorrow consequent on its non-fulfillment. Such is the necessary consequence of identifying an ethical perception (a matter of intellect) with a "feeling."

But it is not a fact that every perception of duty performed, and recognized as such, is necessarily pleasurable; nor every consciousness of duty similarly violated, a painful experience.

In a perfect nature, of course, moral sentiments will always harmonize with ethical perceptions. But who is perfect? To do right is often a labor and a sorrow, and it is certainly not less meritorious on that account.

But, unhappily, men sometimes take pleasure in acts which their conscience disapproves, and enjoy them the more oh such very account. "I'm a sad dog, I am, no mistake about that!" has been said, now and again, with a pleasurable chuckle of immoral self-consciousness, by men not by any means the worst of sinners.

Real merit depends exclusively on motives, and thus one and the same act may be moral or immoral, according to the direction taken by the will in performing it—as in the instances above given of the sick nurse and the woman materially an adulteress.

But this ethical distinction between acts formally and only materially good—the distinction of motive and consequent merit or guilt—is the most important distinction which it is possible for us to draw in the whole domain of human thought, from elementary arithmetic up to the highest regions of philosophy.

The reader will readily understand then my satisfaction when, on perusing the right honorable professor's recent lecture, I read as follows:[10]

Civilization could not advance far without the establishment of a capital distinction between the case of involuntary and that of willful misdeed; between a merely wrong action and a guilty one. And, with increasing refinement of moral appreciation, the problem of desert, which arises out of this distinction, acquired more and more theoretical and practical importance. . . . The idea of justice thus underwent a gradual sublimation from punishment and reward according to acts, to punishment and reward according to desert; or, in other words, according to motive. Righteousness—that is, action from right motive—not only became synonymous with justice, but the positive constituent of innocence and the very heart of goodness.

The position of the absolute moralist could not be better expressed than in those admirable words: The "very heart of goodness" lies in action due to right motives and good will.

I add the words "good will" because, with the attribution of guilt or merit to actions according to the motives of the doer of them, a certain freedom must also be attributed to the will itself. Moral blame or approbation can not (as the universal custom of mankind shows) be attributed to any being destitute of all power of choice or of any control whatever over the actions he performs. Prof. Huxley will not deny that "our volition counts for something as a condition of the course of events."

An act of free will is no uncaused event. Its cause is the spontaneous self-determination of him who freely acts.

But some noble words in the recent Oxford lecture specially merit notice as containing in them an energetic repudiation of the utilitary theory of morals. They are:[11] "We should cast aside the notion that the escape from pain and sorrow is the proper object of life."

I will now pass to the second of the two processes of evolution which his recent writings seem to indicate as having taken place in the mind of Prof. Huxley.

He and I worked simultaneously and harmoniously to show how much less the human body differs from that of an ape, than does that of an ape from any other animal.

In his work on Man's Place in Nature (1863), he diverged from Cuvier and followed Linnæus by including man in one order—Primates—with the apes and lemurs. In the first scientific paper I ever published,[12] I went yet further and reduced man (anatomically considered) to the rank of a section of a suborder of the Primates, for which section I first proposed the term "Anthropoidea."

But while the professor took the position of an entire sympathizer with and supporter of Mr. Darwin's views as to man's origin, I have ever maintained that, in spite of the closeness of bodily resemblance, the psychical gulf between him and them constitutes a profound difference not merely of degree, but an absolute distinction of kind—one involving a difference as to origin.

The position I at once assumed, which I have unfalteringly upheld, and now maintain more confidently than ever, is that no mere process of evolutionary natural selection, no cosmic process, could ever have produced from irrational Nature a being "looking before and after"—a being who could say either "this must be absolute truth," or "such is my duty and I will, or will not, do it." It was with great satisfaction, therefore, that I perused some of the passages on this subject in the recent Romanes lecture.

Therein, after having affirmed[13] that the mere animal man had attained his position by the cosmic process—a view I had supported[14] in. 1871 the lecturer makes the following statement:[15]

The practice of that which is ethically best—what we call goodness or virtue—involves a course of conduct which, in all respects, is opposed to that which leads to success in the cosmic struggle for existence. In place of ruthless selfassertion it demands self-restraint; in place of thrusting aside, or treading down, all competitors, it requires that the individual shall not merely respect but shall help his fellows; its influence is directed, not so much to the survival of the fittest, as to the fitting as many as possible to survive. It repudiates the gladiatorial theory of existence.

We read also:

Social progress means a checking of the cosmic process at every step, and the substitution for it of another, which may be called the ethical process. It depends (he tells us on the next page) not on imitating the cosmic process, still less in running away from it, but in combating it.

It is yet further said:[16]

The history of civilization details the steps by which men have succeeded in building up an artificial world within the Cosmos. Fragile reed as he may be, man, as Pascal says, is a thinking reed: there lies within him a fund of energy, operating intelligently, and so far akin to that which pervades the universe that it is competent to influence and modify the cosmic process.

I have always maintained that the cosmic process, since it often favors the ill-doer more than the virtuous man, could never by any possibility have evolved the ethical ideal.

Prof. Huxley now bears the most satisfactory witness to this truth, saying:[17]

The thief and the murderer follow Nature just as much as the philanthropist. Cosmic evolution may teach us how the good and evil tendencies of man may have come about; but, in itself, it is incompetent to furnish any better reason why what we call good is preferable to what we call evil than we had before.

Just so! It would be difficult to declare more emphatically that ethics could never have formed part and parcel of the general process of evolution.

But with that change, whatever it may have been, which first introduced into this planet an intellectual, and therefore ethical, nature, it is no wonder that consequences thence resulted destructive of antecedent harmonies.

Many persons deplore the ravages which the one intellectual animal (man) has effected on the fair face of Nature. As a naturalist I feel this strongly, and the extinction of so many curious and beautiful forms of life which human progress occasions is very painful to contemplate. It seems to us hateful that the harmonious results of Nature's conflicting powers should be disturbed and upset to meet the vulgar needs of uncultured human life.

Yet reason should convince us that this sentiment is a mistaken one. We may, indeed, most reasonably regret the loss of species of animals and plants which greater care and foresight might have preserved; yet we should never forget that over the irrational world man legitimately holds sway, and that weighed in the balance with him the rest counts for nothing. The very poorest homestead, the ugliest row of cottages, the most commonplace suburb, and the manufacturer's chimney, with, its grimysurroundings and furnaces which make verdure impossible, are each of them priceless in value compared with all the charms of irrational Nature which the most skillful poet can depict. They are of such value, because each is an arena wherein good thoughts and words and deeds may find a place, and so help on the world to fulfill what is for us its one great end.

A nature must be wonderful indeed which demands for its existence the reversal of that great cosmic process which, so far as we know, has ever and everywhere prevailed antecedently to its advent. The difference between a being of so transcendent a nature and every other must surely be something altogether different from the difference between mercury grass and a field buttercup, or between a wolf and a badger!

But the reader must not imagine I would represent Prof. Huxley as an entirely conscious convert to a view opposed to that he had before advocated. Some of his utterances concord with the latter, and I can not presume to say to which he will ultimately adhere.

Thus, as to the future of evolution, he tells us:[18]

Some day, I doubt not, we shall arrive at an understanding of the evolution of the æsthetic faculty.

He affirms also that those who seek to find "the origin of the moral sentiments" [the right honorable professor's term for ethical perceptions] in evolution "are on the right track."

In a note[19] he declares that—

Strictly speaking, social life and the ethical process, in virtue of which it advances toward perfection, are part and parcel of the general process of evolution, just as the gregarious habit of innumerable plants and animals, which has been of immense advantage to them, is so.

Is this only an inconsistent adherence to old opinions, or is it meant to be seriously maintained as an essential truth? If the latter, it nullifies all that was said as to the distinctness of the ethical process and the wonderful reversal of the great cosmic process by man! Every one knew that gregarious creatures, such as wolves, have different habits from solitary animals, such as badgers, and many know that the growth of mercury grass has consequences whereof that of the buttercup is devoid. No prophet need arise in Israel to tell us such things as these. No special university lecture was required to teach them to us, and I, for one, must decline to believe that all those eloquent expressions which have been quoted—respecting "righteousness being the very heart of goodness"; the explicit denial that evolution can teach us why good is to be preferred to evil, and the representation of the ethical combating the cosmic process—mean no more than that a difference has been established essentially similar to that which exists between social and solitary caterpillars.

I am confident that in my interpretation I can only be doing the right honorable professor justice, for who out of Bedlam would call the gregarious mode of growth of a patch of mercury grass an ethical process? We might just as truly attribute "calculation" to crystals, and "amorousness" to oxygen.

Of course, evolution will cause a social organism so to grow or so to act as not to destroy itself. To do this is one thing, to see that it is its duty so to act is quite another.

Prof. Huxley informs us[20] that to his knowledge no one

professes to doubt that, so far as we possess a power of bettering things, it is our paramount duty to use it and to train all our intellect and energy to the service of our kind.

But it is questionable whether some pessimists would not only doubt, but even deny, this assertion; and it is only too plain that, without professing to doubt it, multitudes of men and women by their actions practically deny it. Prof. Huxley's assertion is an uncompromising "categorical imperative," and, of course, will receive the support of absolute morality; but whence does he derive such an ethical ideal? Man did not voluntarily and consciously invent it. It was in him, but not of him. To this it may be replied that only developed man has such perceptions, and that the thoughtless brains of a savage are devoid of all ethical intuitions, while every one must admit that the infant gives no evidence of their presence. But to say that because the infant does not manifest them it does not possess them, would be as reasonable as to say that because a field shows no sprouting corn there can be no corn beneath its surface! As to savages, I have elsewhere[21] stated my reason for believing they have essentially the same nature that we have ourselves. If I were wrong in this, I should not regard them as men. I should not care if it could be proved that intellect and ethical perception did not anywhere exist a hundred years ago. I know that they exist now, and I know that a being who possesses them is, and must be, of an absolutely different nature from one who does not. As a fact, I think few will dispute that most infants which live to adult age and many savages who come in close contact with Europeans clearly demonstrate that their "nature" was rational, however tardy and impeded may have been their manifestation of rationality.

But the advent of a being who has such faculties as man has, and whose career really conflicts with, and reverses the great process of cosmic evolution, may well have had an origin different in kind from that of every other animal—at least, so far as regards his intellectual principle.[22] For he is a being with two natures in one person, and thus it is that when we speak of "the whole of Nature," or "the natural world," a definition of our meaning is needed in order to avoid ambiguity. The term "Nature" may be used in a broad or in a narrow sense.

In the broad sense[23] of the word, it includes man with all his powers and their effects, while in the narrow sense of the word Nature he is excluded from it.

Much may be said for the latter use of the term, since man, by his intelligence and will, is able to change the whole course of physical causation. Thus his power, when contrasted with all the other powers of Nature known to us, may, in a sense, be termed "supernatural," and he may be truly said to "perform miracles." So great, indeed, is the contrast and distance between man and the world of irrational nature, that it suggests now, as it suggested of old, a contrast and difference on the other side—I mean, it suggested the existence of a "real supernatural"—of a mode of being which is raised above all human nature, as man himself is raised above all infra-human nature.

And so I come to one of the corollaries which I think results from such a change of view with respect to man as the words above quoted[24] from Prof. Huxley would seem to indicate—namely, the recognition of a Divine All-perfect Creator of the world and man.

This corollary Prof. Huxley seems as yet indisposed to admit, although he has elsewhere[25] spoken of man as "here and there reflecting a ray from the infinite source of truth!" He is, as yet, plainly indisposed to admit it, because he declares[26] that the existence of evil is incompatible with the existence of an omnipotent and infinitely beneficent Cause.

But, assuming the existence of evil to be to us inexplicable, we are but thereby landed in a choice of difficulties, between which, it seems to me, no rational man should for one moment hesitate.

One difficulty is the existence of a complex Cosmos, which could never have been naturally selected, and whereof intelligence and goodness (in ourselves) form part, without an adequate cause—i. e., without God.[27] To regard this non-theistic view as a possibility is, in my eyes, the acme of irrationality.

The other difficulty is the possible accord with God's infinite goodness, of evil, permitted for purposes we can not conceive of, and due to attributes higher than, though not inconsistent with, beneficence. How any one, who has not the presumption of pretending to understand what God is, can really find this second difficulty a serious one, is to me amazing.

Christianity can supply not only an explanation but also a profound consolation for the troubles of this life, and mere ordinary experience shows us that things we have now and then desired would, if obtained, have been baneful for us, as also that apparent evils have been blessings in disguise. Prof. Huxley, indeed, very truly says:[28]

That there is a "soul of good in things evil" is unquestionable; nor will any wise man deny the disciplinary value of pain and sorrow.

On this we have often insisted; but none the less we are from asserting that ours is the best of all possible worlds. All I would affirm is that God must have created a Cosmos such as to respond most fitly to the intention of a Being infinite in intelligence and goodness, but also possessing attributes of which we can have no conception whatever.

Heartily do I echo Prof. Huxley's denunciation of the words, "Whatever is, is right," as opposed to all our noblest aspirations, and most true is his remark[29] that—

To the man with an ethical ideal, the world, including himself, will always seem full of evil.

But the teaching of the lecture, as a whole, is a depressing one. Many years ago Prof. Huxley taught[30] that in "sadness" lay "the essence of all religion," and little comfort is to be gained from his latest utterance. He tells us,[31] "The theory of evolution encourages no millennial anticipations." This is true, indeed; and though the world's existence may seem long when measured by the span of a human life, it is but "a flash in the pan" compared with the infinite ages. And if we suppose the cosmic process to continue indefinitely, and suns with their attendant planets so to pulsate into and from separate existence, yet it promises nothing for all mankind but absolute annihilation and utter nothingness.

The Oxford lecturer, however, discoursing on truly "vain philosophy," predicts a mere recurrence of pulsations for the best human thought. Its modern form, he tells us[32]

is making a fresh start from the base whence Indian and Greek philosophy set out; and, the human mind being very much what it was six and twenty centuries ago, there is no ground for wonder if it presents indications of a tendency to move along the old lines to the same results.

The human mind is, of course, very much what it was, but it has now what then it had not the light of Christianity to aid its progress. Its influence has ground and sharpened the weapons of the intellect as they have never been ground and sharpened before. No doubt, the prejudices which have grown up under the teaching of Descartes and Locke, which have been intensified by Berkeley, and which culminated in Hume, will continue to dominate those who can not extricate themselves from that sophistical labyrinth wherein I was once myself imprisoned. The labyrinthine spell, which makes escape impossible, consists in the words: "We can be supremely certain of nothing but our own present feelings." Hypnotized by this formula, the victims fancy they can not know with certainty their own substantial and continuous existence. But the spell is at once dissolved by the recognition that such feelings are not primary declarations of consciousness, but simply the result of an act of reflection parallel with that which tells us of our own persistent being.[33]

The dreams of Brahmanism and Buddhism, Ionian philosophy, Idealism, which may be called the philosophy of Janus,[34] and the noble inconsistencies of pantheistic Stoicism are all impossible for those who have come to apprehend the truths enshrined in Christian philosophy.

It would be an important approximation toward that philosophy on the part of the second Romanes lecturer, if those words of his I have here cited signify an acceptance of the distinction between what is "formal" and what only "material" in the sphere of ethics on the one hand, and an appreciation of the essentially distinct nature of man on the other. His expressions seem to me to justify the hope that the process of mental evolution has in him had this result.

I can not, however, regard them as decisive. It may be I have been deluded by my earnest wish that those words,

Whose faith and work were bells of full accord,

which have been said of a valued friend of us both, may one day also be said of him. If, however, I have been mistaken, I shall not on that account cease to hope that ultimately my wish will be fulfilled.

For my own part my conviction grows ever stronger that, though corporeally man is but a sort of ape, his intellectual nature is so distinct that, thus considered, there is more difference between him and the orang than between the latter and the ground beneath its feet.

But high as he is raised above the rest of Nature, the very limitations of his reason, considered in the light of the highest ethical aspirations of his being, demand something beyond Nature—a Divine revelation.

This is what the higher races of mankind seem to me to have, consciously or unconsciously, sought and striven for, from the dawn of history till the advent of Christianity. The acceptance of that revelation (of course without the surrender of a single truth of physical, biological, historical, or any other science) is, I believe, the logical outcome of the Theistic corollary implied by that power of ethical intuition which so forcibly proclaims both the responsibilities and the dignity of man.—The Nineteenth Century.


An incident related by Persifer Frazer in his biographical sketch, in the American Geologist, of Thomas Sterry Hunt, may be regarded as illustrating the force with which first impressions strike the mind. At the first scientific convention which the young chemist and geologist attended, that of the Association of American Geologists and Naturalists, in 1845, Dr. O. T. Jackson read a communication on the copper and silver of Keweenaw Point, and Prof. H. D. Rogers submitted some remarks on the question of the Taconic rocks, two subjects which afterward received great attention from Dr. Hunt to the last days of his life. "One might easily and perhaps profitably trace," Dr. Frazer remarks, "the origin of many investigations which Dr. Hunt has pursued to brilliant discoveries in the sometimes vague but to him suggestive questions and observations at these scientific meetings."
  1. The Romanes Lecture, 1893.
  2. Contemporary Review (January, 1872), p. 196.
  3. Essays and Criticisms (Osgood, McIlvaine & Co.), ii, 101.
  4. The Genesis of Species (Macmillan & Co.), 1871, second edition, p. 219.
  5. See Quarterly Review, July, 1871, p. 82; and also my Essays and Criticisms, 1892, ii, 49.
  6. See The Contemporary Review for 1871; and also his Critiques and Addresses, 1873, p. 251.
  7. Critiques and Addresses, p. 288.
  8. Loc. cit, p. 281.
  9. P. 289.
  10. [November Popular Science Monthly, pp. 24, 25.]
  11. [December Monthly, p. 191.]
  12. Proceedings of the Zoölogical Society, 1864, p. 634. See also The Philosophical Transactions, 1867, p. 300.
  13. [November Monthly, p. 21.]
  14. See The Genesis of Species, p. 325.
  15. [December Monthly, p. 189.]
  16. [December Monthly, pp. 189, 190.]
  17. [December Monthly, p. 187.] The Italics are mine.
  18. [December Monthly, p. 187.]
  19. [December Monthly.] Note, p. 188. The Italics are mine.
  20. [December Monthly, p. 187.]
  21. See On Truth (Kegan Paul, Trench & Co.), chapter xix, pp. 282-294.
  22. In my Genesis of Species (1871), i). 325, I said: "Man, according to the old scholastic definition, is a rational animal (animal rationale), and his animality is distinct in nature from his rationality, though inseparably joined during life in one common personality. Plan's animal body must have had a different source from that of the spiritual soul which informs it, owing to the distinctness of the two orders to which these two existences severally belong. . . . That the first man should have had this double origin agrees with what we now experience. For, supposing each human soul to be directly and immediately created, yet each human body is evolved by the ordinary operation of natural physical laws. . . . Man is, indeed, compound; in him two distinct orders of being impinge and mingle; and with this composite nature an origin from two concurrent modes of action is congruous, and might be expected a priori."
  23. The sense used by me in my Lessons from Nature (John Murray), 1876.
  24. See p. 327.
  25. See Man's pace in Nature, p. 112.
  26. [December Monthly, p. 181.]
  27. As to "Natural Selection" in this relation, and as to adequacy and the eternity of the Cosmos and its Cause, see On Truth, chapter xxvi, pp. 450-499.
  28. [December Monthly, p. 182.] His difficulty rather concerns the merely animal world. As to this question, space does not allow me to do more than refer my readers to my book On Truth, p. 471.
  29. [December Monthly, p. 182, note.]
  30. Lay Sermons (1870), p. 15.
  31. [December Monthly, p. 190.]
  32. [December Monthly, p. 186.1
  33. It is, of course, impossible in these pages to draw out the reasons which justify the above assertion. For them the reader is referred to my book On Truth, chapters i, ii, and ix.
  34. Because the system can readily be inverted so as to become materialism. Its materialistic face belongs to it as properly as does its idealistic visage. Prof. Huxley says [November Monthly, p. 31 J, "Granting the premises, I am not aware of any escape from Berkeley's conclusion." Neither am I. But I am no less unaware of any necessity to accept those premises, the truth of which I unhesitatingly deny.