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From The Contemporary Review. called utilitarian-decided, that is, by ETHICS AND SCIENCE.
considerations referring to general enThose who can look back, through the joyment-depends the further issue, mists and storms of nearly half a cen- whether it is an advancing or a stationtury, to the comparative lull between ary thing. "How so?” asked a reviewer the political agitation of the Crimean (in words here necessarily remembered war and the intellectual agitation and not copied). "Why must we take stirred by “The Origin of Species,” will this for granted? Why should not the recall the publication of a book the im- general conscience be a growing thing, mediate effect of which was much as well as the general knowledge?” stronger than its permanent position in The review, which is traceable to the literature would appear to justify. pen of Dr. Martineau, was the earliest Buckle's "Introduction to the History of protest I can recall from contemporary Civilization” remains, indeed, a volume literature against a view which ig. of much interest, and has its
nores or defies the lessons of all hispartisans, whose claim for it would tory. chime in with all that was felt by its Nothing is more unquestionable, earliest readers; but a remark made on surely, than that the character and acit by one who was among its most en- tions which men admired and approved, thusiastic admirers on its first appear- for instance, in the thirteenth century ance-Charles Darwin-recurs now al- are different from those which we admost as a verdict. “How curiously the mire and approve now. Many people fortune of books changes!” he said, on think that the good man of the ninere-perusing that one shortly before his teenth century is better than the good death; "what a stir that book made man of the thirteenth; a few think that among us when it first came out, and he is not so good; the wise and thoughtnow it is dead!" Its significance for the ful, who are also few, consider that he student of to-day is that of some an- is both better and worse; but all would cient mark of high tide where the land agree that he is different. The best of has gained upon the sea-it records a men were ready then for actions from limit that has long vanished. Its argu- which the worst would shrink in our ment may be summed up in a few sen- day. Who, in our time, would burn a tences. There is in the world such a fellow-creature alive? Six hundred thing as progress; civilization is a grow- years ago it would have been the most ing thing. Morality, on the other hand ardent philanthropists who were ready (he assumed), is evidently a stationary for that action. We cannot say that thing. A good man at one age is much philanthropy was unreal then and is the same as a good man at another. real now. We may be very thankful Therefore civilization (he inferred) that it is purged of noxious and hateful must depend on something which is superstition; but if we suppose that it capable of increase, and this is evi- was in no spirit of love for mankind dently knowledge. The momentum and that a St. Dominic desired to burn a the direction of progress are given ex- heretic, then we are equally blinded by clusively by science. As one gives this superstition of our own. We cannot bald summary of a book which took the measure our approximation to the moral world by storm, one wonders that its feeling of the past by our actual nearwealth of illustration and vigor of ex- ness to it. If we look back a little way pression could blind its readers to as- we shall find ourselves among men who sumptions SO baseless. But Buckle, felt very differently from the way their daring heretic as he thought himself representatives feel to-day; if
go and was thought by others, when he as- back much farther we may find oursumed that moral development was only selves among people much more sympaindividual, merely echoed a view then thetic with our own standard. Cicero common to the thoughtless and the and Horace would be more likely to thoughtful. John Mill, in his essay on agree with nineteenth-century men of “Utilitarianism,” urges that on the issue the world than Dominic and Francis of whether morality is intuitive or what he Assisi would. Mr. Huxley or Mr. John
Morley would be more out of sympathy gered only among the classes attending with Luther than either of them would the universities. We may say that the be with Pericles. But, just as there is decay of duelling is a result of the an increase of temperature from Janu spread of humane feeling, or of the ary to July, and a decrease from July to shrinking of military feeling; both stateDecember, though a warm day in Janu- ments are true, and each is incomplete. ary or December may sometimes be as In either case, it is an illustration of warm as a cold day in July, so there is a that principle of evolution, so strangely change in the progress of the ages—a ignored till it was universally accepted, change which some may assimilate to by which men's desires and emotions the first of these and some to the sec- change from generation to generation, ond, but which, one way or another, whether the change be regarded as loss none can ignore. The change would or gain. generally be summed up in the word It is difficult to realize that the recog"progress”- —we can, indeed, hardly find nition of anything so obvious is recent. another word to describe it-although but much publication of new truth is, the implied decision that the progress is in fact, an illumination of the obvious; in the right direction is not accepted by certainly this is true of the doctrine of every one. I remember it being ab- the Origin of Species by Natural Selecjured, to my great surprise, by Mr. tion. That more animals are brought Froude. I know not whether he has into the world every year than can surever maintained in print a view which vive to leave offspring, that those who seems so much out of keeping with the do survive to leave offspring must be general tenor of his work, but it was the fittest to survive, that their offspring certainly serious at the time, now far inherit more or less of those characterremote, at which he expressed it to me, istics which fit them to survive-these and it is one in which he was not abso- are not opinions. They may be delutely singular. But belief in the scribed as a string of truisms. Some of change, with or without satisfaction in them are also important truths. Long it, is now universal.
before the publication of "The Origin of We do not need to open those records Species” the moral bearing of heredity of the past which we label as history weighed with any wise master who enfor proofs of a change in men's im- gaged a servant, with any wise father pulses and feelings quite as great as any who sanctioned a marriage; other in their beliefs, habits or knowledge. things might outweigh it, but there it Men now living may remember, might was. The resemblance of child to possibly have fought, a duel. Certainly parent is, indeed, even more moral than there is nothing in which people less it is intellectual. A father cannot bediffer than in their objection to a vio- queath his knowledge otherwise than lent death. Yet a number of people by giving his son the opportunity of who in our own time would be quite in- learning, as he might give it to any one capable of an act requiring so much else. He may not, it is true, bequeath nerve, were ready, less than a hundred his ideal of conduct-a Marcus Aurelius years ago, to stand to be shot at. It was may leave a Commodus as his heir, but at least as dangerous to fight a duel, in the very conspicuousness of that conthe days when duels were a reality, as trast marks it as exceptional. To ponit is to jump into the water to save a der over the fact that every generation drowning person. We do not explain transmits to its successor some feelings the change in ascribing it to the influ- and impulses derived from its predeénce of public opinion. What makes cessor is to discern the bearing of moral public opinion? It is not as if one set evolution. No one ever denied the of persons somehow made another set facts, though, as translated into theory, of persons go and fight; it was a prac- they revolutionized the world of tice which society imposed upon itself. thought. Nor can we say that the progress of The influence of a new philosophy is knowledge had much to do with the à complex thing, and may be stated, abandonment of a practice which lin- from different points of view, with Wuat
looks like inconsistency. If Buckle their inherited views, it stimulated the were living now, he might point out the mental act of rejection, it gave new themoral vicissitude of the closing cen- ory the prestige of a recent and glorious tury as a striking illustration of what he victory. With that victory, the had meant to say, though he would have tithesis of heaven and earth disapto modify his dialect in expressing it. peared alike from the physical and "Was there ever a greater change pro- moral world. From one point of view duced in the moral world,” he might heaven itself disappeared. The high ask, “than that which resulted from the “above” changed to the wide “around;" Darwinian theory of creation ?" or, as he
the words "above" and “below" would doubtless have expressed it, from lost their meaning. How wonderfully a knowledge of a true method of crea- linked are the sensible and the spiritual tion. And in whatever else we might worlds! We may repeat what has just disagree with him, we could not deny been said of the former with almost that the change, which may be briefly equal applicability to the latter. The described as the substitution of a world high and the low, to a great extent, lost making for a world made, the their meaning here also. Earth, in its greatest in our intellectual history. It new brilliancy, attracted men's whole was an alteration similar to that by attention. which the law regulating the movement The change which took place then is of an apple or a falling leaf was recog- strikingly analogous to that of our own nized as regulating also the movements age. What the discovery of gravitation of worlds vastly greater than our own. did for space, that the discovery of evoAnd in that case also a moral accom- lution did for time. As under the influpanied an intellectual revolution. The ence of the first a law supposed only astronomers who, in the picturesque terrestrial expanded to fill the universe; and homely words of Mr. Huxley, so under the influence of the second, a swept away much beside. The old med- process supposed complete in the six iæval conceptions of the earth, with the days of Creation, expanded to fill the heavens above and a dark world below, ages of our planet's existence. The first though it had undergone much modifica- change cancelled the antithesis of tion before the time of Newton, heaven and earth, the second change bodied and typified a whole system of cancelled the antithesis between Creethics, which was destroyed only with ation and that unmiraculous condithe “cycle and epicycle, orb on orb,” to tion which we supposed to have folwhich Milton alludes in the very crisis lowed it. The stationary world vanof their disappearance. The ideas of ished as the dark world had vanished, the moral world have been almost as and we found ourselves the spectators different, since the time of Newton, as of creation as we had found ourselves the ideas of the physical world. Every- the inhabitants of a star. Of concepbody knows, more or less, what is tions so vast as these it is difficult to meant by the spirit of the eighteenth say that they are merely anything, but, century; it has come to be a synonym so far as we can concentrate our attenfor
criticism, scepticism, disbelief. tion on their limits, we may say that the How much of this is a result of the vast views of the universe introduced both change which revolutionized men's con- by the Newtonian and the Darwinian ceptions of the physical universe is not science are purely intellectual. Yet equally a matter of general agreement; there is no reasonable doubt that both but there was surely some connection register a moral change. All who between the two things. The revolu- ponder over the history of thought will tion which discarded what ordinary allow that at the time when this earth
sense had assumed, which was seen itself to be one of "those wantaught men to invert the conceptions of dering fires which move in mystic tradition, and believe that the seeming dance," the secular interests of men stationary body was whirling rapidly- took a new importance. If turn the seeming motion was imaginary; this from the great men of the seventeenth taught men also to call in question all century-Cromwell, Milton, Jeremy
Taylor, Bossuet, and Fénelon-to the eccentricity of individuals, a potential great men of the eighteenth-Walpole, sanction seemed impressed on what had Locke, Pope, Voltaire, and Rousseau- been regarded as transgression and or even to such survivals of the elder mutiny. Variation being regarded as spirit as Berkeley and Butler, we feel the instrument of creation, the direction that life has taken a new coloring, un- of variation appeared a secondary tinged by the hopes and fears that are matter. What was wanted was experiassociated with eternity. The moral ment. The action of Eve ceased to be a transformation is not an unquestion- sin and became a duty. To adhere to able gain, the intellectual acquisition is the standards of the past was to arrest a triumph of truth, and yet surely these development. The burden of proof was two changes are not unrelated. The thus shifted from him who would intronew world was a suitable environment duce the new to him who would retain for the new race.
the old. Because a relation, a custom, a But far more is this true of the moral moral attitude was right yesterday, it change produced by the idea of evolu- appeared, under the new light, likely to tion. An alteration regarding time is a be wrong to-day. Our goal, then, must more spiritual thing than an alteration now be our point of departure. regarding space. The principle of evo- Observe how this ideal has modified lution concerns the whole future as well all that grouping of human relations as the whole past. We cannot say it which forms the framework of duty. was active up to a particular date and We may say, with very little exaggerathen ceased working, nor can we say it tion, that whatever was a dogma to our is true of man's bodily organs and not fathers has become a problem to our of his soul. It is simply the name for children. We cannot take up a novel or creative activity everywhere and al- a magazine without finding something ways. Such a conception cannot sud- called in question which half a century denly conquer the world without pro- ago seemed as fixed as the stars. Perducing a moral result. The stir created haps the Ten Commandments were as by “The Origin of Species” was caused little obeyed then as they are now. But not merely, I think not chiefly, by the their authority was then denied only by enforced surrender of the first two a few daring heretics, liable in extreme chapters of Genesis. It was the half- cases to civil penalties. Now we can conscious recoil of a traditional moral- hardly point to one which is not habituity from a new influence pregnant with ally and fearlessly called in question. revolution. From the first it was pos- Honor to parents, fidelity to the spouse, sible to discern that the new doctrine reverence to God-all have been denied concerned not physical life alone. The to be duties; covetousness, theft, murder Sabbath benediction under the light of all have been denied to be vices or evolution appeared in the future; the crimes. Socialists in our day believe history of our planet traced a slow ap- that it is right to take the money of the proach towards the golden age which rich and give it to the poor—that is, to had vanished from the past, every gen- steal; Nihilists believe that it is right to eration seemed to measure a step put kings to death-that is, to murder; towards a clearer vision as well as a and a number of novel-writers and more complete development, and we other writers believe, or at least say, might mark our approximation towards that it is right for ill-assorted couples to a better condition by the mere process separate and choose other mates—that of comparing dates. This, at least, was is, to commit adultery. Is it advisable the first aspect of the new doctrine as it that a husband and wife should be appeared under the guise of "the sur- united by a permanent bond? that the vival of the fittest.” A principle which act which makes them one should be traced all development to accumulated irreversible? or is change here to be alvariations from an original type added ways an open question? To debate this some inferences not indispensable to in the past was to start a daring heresy. every theory of evolution. If the origin Now it is to apply the principle of evoof new species was to be sought in the lution. The whole question of sexual
relation has thus, for the fashion of the lessons on this duty. There were bad hour, entered the realm of experiment. parents as well as good in such stories, When we turn those fictitious pictures for instance, as Miss Edgeworth's; but, of life which reflect the most important bad or good, their children, her readers moral assumptions of time more feel, are under some sort of obligation to clearly than any transcript from expe- obey them. In any modern representarience, we find that a certain fearless- tive of this class of fiction, on the other ness in disregarding what used to be hand, the question of obedience hardly felt the limits of permissible frankness occurs. The
ways of children are is now as sure to make a novel widely studied and described as the ways of read, even if it be not remarkable for birds; they are interesting, not moral. talent of any kind, as in former days it We are called upon to observe them was sure to keep it from being widely with a "wise passiveness.” The very read, even if it were remarkable for tal- fact that children's dialect is so much ent of some kind. Unreserve is the di- more often put in type than it used to viuing-line of science and literature, be has a certain significance. Imperfect and the sphere in which it is fatal to utterance must always have had a withhold facts has in this respect en- charm for the fond hearts of parents, croached on the sphere in which it is but it would have been thought in fatal not to withhold facts. I remem- former days below the dignity of even ber the great writer, who chose to be childish literature to reproduce it in known as George Eliot, answering a print. Now we must all be familiar question of mine about John Stuart with the endeavor, if we glance at chilMill's book on the subjection of women dren's books. Children are given us, we by asking me: “Do you not think Mill's think now, rather to observe than to views on such subjects are deprived of train. There is, indeed, a sense of remuch of their importance by his want sponsibility with respect to those who of attention to physiology ?” I thought bring them into the world which is at the time that she was confronting a something new and a vast moral imgreat change on its least important side. provement, but the children, once here, But the words were both a sign-post as are hardly supposed amenable to directo the direction which was to be taken tion or control, except such they by fiction and also the explanation of a share with all the world, and sometimes fashion already discerned to commem- not even that. orate the defeat of literature as much as The deliquescing influence of evoluthe triumph of science.
tion on the moral grouping of the past The change by which the link uniting is even more conspicuous in national husband and wife has become a prob- than in family life. The nation may lem to investigate rather than a bond to appear a more artificial group than the reverence is not the only case in which family. None of the three great races the relations of the family have been of antiquity, whose influence we sum transferred from the realm of religion up under the names of Greece, Rome, to that of sociology. If we turn to the and Judæa, were what an Englishman relatlon of parent and child, the influ- means by a nation, and the very fact ence of the new ideas is even more con- that he cannot find a suitable term to spicuous. This relation was hallowed in name his own is an expressive exhibiformer days by an association with that tion of its comparative novelty, and, to between the human and the divine. It a certain extent, of its precarious tenis now as incoherent as the relations of ure. The sacredness of some sort of civilized invaders to savage tribes. The political unity is probably the oldest notion of obedience being a duty at any sanctity of civilization, but the passage age, is one that is not only weakened, it from the city of antiquity to the nation is, in the eyes of many who most repre- of the modern world appears, to many sent the views of the age, almost ex- of those whose influence an attempt has changed for its contrary. Look, again, here been made to describe, part of a at fiction. All stories written for the process by which all such limitations as young used to be more or less moral are involved in national existence are to