Popular Science Monthly/Volume 53/July 1898/Scientific Literature

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1394275Popular Science Monthly Volume 53 July 1898 — Scientific Literature1898

Scientific Literature.


Mr.Evans's Evolutional Ethics and Animal Psychology[1] deals in the first place with the origin and early growth of ethical conceptions, but more especially as the treatise goes on, with the physical and mental relations of animals and men, and the rights of animals as flowing out of these. "The intimate connection between evolutional ethics and animal psychology," the author says, "must be apparent to all who carefully consider the influence necessarily exerted by a proper appreciation of animal intelligence upon the recognition of man's moral relations and obligations to the creatures with whom he is so closely associated, and who are so largely subject to his dominion"; and "the measure of our duty toward lower organisms is determined by the degree of their mental development. . . . The only foundation of animal ethics is animal psychology." The discussion is opened with a View of the Ethics of Tribal Society, or that stage of the development near the beginning when rights were not recognized outside of the narrow circle of the tribe, and all others than those of the tribe were regarded as enemies. The idea was gradually expanded through the symbolism of the brotherhood of blood, the sacred rite, as we might call it, of hospitality, and the supposititious or ceremonial recognition of the kinship of tribal chiefs. Then the bond of community of religious belief came in to be a basis of moral obligation. Psychology and ethics were still, however, anthropocentric, and man was considered as essentially different and inseparably set apart from all other sentient creatures, a superior being, bound to them by no ties of mental affinity or moral obligation. The doctrine of metempsychosis, under which the soul was supposed in the next stage of existence to become incarnated in another man or a beast, came in to modify this view, and to prepare a way for the recognition of animal rights. Men came to observe the intelligence of beasts, and to find in them evidences of the possession of something more or less remotely resembling the mental faculties of man. The growth of this view is traced in its various aspects, the results deducible from them are set forth, and we are brought to the present state of the discussion, in the chapter on Mind in Man and Brute and those which follow it. "Modern scientific research has not only discovered a multitude of physical correspondences—analogical and homological—between man and brute, but it has also detected and brought to light many irrefragable proofs of their psychical kinship. The more exact and extended our knowledge of animal intelligence becomes, the more remarkable does its resemblance to human intelligence appear." The capacity of animals to adapt themselves to new conditions is discussed, and incidents are adduced in which it has been shown, in a chapter on Progress and Perfectibility in them; their power to form concepts, plan, and pursue a systematic course are considered under the head of Ideation in Animals and Man, and cases of the organization of communities, trial by courts, the use of tools, etc., by them are cited. The existence of such a barrier as the possession of the power of speech by man and the destitution of it by animals is questioned. Finally, evidences are adduced of the presence of an æsthetic sense and the foreshadowing of a religious sentiment in animals. "It is through the portal of spiritual kinship, created by modern evolutional science, that beasts and birds, 'our elder brothers,' as Herder calls them, enter into the temple of justice and enjoy the privilege of sanctuary against the wanton or unwitting cruelty hitherto authorized by the assumptions and usurpations of man."

In Aristocracy and Evolution[2] Mr. W. H. Mallock first inquires what determines the production and ascendency of superior men, what their office in the world is, and what they effect; and then applies his conclusions to current social questions, particularly to that of the distribution of wealth. By aristocracy he means in this book no artificial or conventional class, but "the exceptionally gifted and efficient minority, no matter what the position in which its members may have been born, or what the sphere of social progress in which their exceptional efficiency shows itself." He prefers the word to oligarchy, "because it means not only the rule of the few, but of the best or most efficient of the few." He regards it as a fundamental error in modern sociological study that it attributes all progress to man, while, according to his own doctrine here set forth and expounded, progress is the work of only a few men who have led the others; that it regards great men as products or at most incidents of human and social evolution, while he would regard them as pioneers and chief factors of it. No hard-and-fast definition is predicated for greatness, but it is regarded as various in kind and degree. "Great men are not necessarily heroes, as Carlyle thought, nor divided absolutely from all other men," but there is a certain minority of men who resemble each other in being more efficient than the majority, as we may see in literature and art, in the scholarship of boys at the same school, and similarly in practical life. A man may be ordinary in one respect and great in another, but the majority are not great in any. The great-man theory asserts that if some men were not more efficient than most men no progress would take place at all. Such men promote progress not so much by what they do themselves as by what they help others to do. Greatness, however, is not in all cases equally beneficial, but the influence of some great men is more advantageous than that of others. Progress, therefore, involves a struggle through which the fittest great men shall secure influence over others and destroy the influence of the less fit. The discussion, turns to the office of the great man in wealth production and his power in politics, to the parts contributed to a joint product by the few and the many, to the dependence of exceptional action on the attainability of exceptional reward, and to the motives of the exceptional wealth-producer. Under the last head the justification of income from capital is shown to rest on the fact that the power of capital to yield income is what mainly makes men anxious to produce it, and that it must be transmissible and heritable, else those social results would not be produced which make it valuable. While the majority may and do acquire a share of the increment produced by the great man, it can never be such as to make social conditions equal, for opportunities can not be made equal. Educational help may do much indeed to increase the supply of exceptional though not great talent, but when applied to those whose exceptional gifts are ill balanced or whose intellects are not sound, it results in mischief, stimulating talents that will be ill applied and developing tastes that can not be satisfied, breeding agitators and causing discontent. "The average man should be taught to aim at embellishing his position, not at escaping from it." The unequal distribution of wealth has no natural tendency to cause unhappiness, for men's desires vary. Equality of desires exists only for the necessaries of life, for this desire rests on men's physical natures, which are similar, while the desire for superfluities depends on their mental powers, which vary, and the special appeal of luxury is mainly to the mind and the imagination. The desire for wealth is speculative, and implies no pain caused by the want of it, and is, in fact, in proportion to each man's belief that wealth is attainable by him. Finally, the socialistic teaching of to-day creates a spurious desire for wealth by its doctrines of impossible rights to it, and its theories merely cause a barren and artificial discontent that interferes with that harmonious progress on which the welfare of the many depends. They make enemies of classes who would otherwise be allies, to the incalculable injury of the cause of true social reform. Mr. Mallock's purpose in this work is to show the fallacy of these theories, and to demonstrate the dependence of the many upon the co-operation of the few.

  1. Evolutional Ethics and Animal Psychology. By E. P. Evans. New York: D. Appleton and Company. Pp. 386. Price, $1.75.
  2. Aristocracy and Evolution: A Study of the Rights, the Origin, and the Social Functions of the Wealthier Classes. By W. H. Mallock. New York: The Macmillan Company, pp. 385. Price, $5.