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are not the best conceivable; that is, are not perfectly right—not perfectly moral, and therefore a morality which permits them, is, in so far as it does this, not a morality at all. To escape from this contradiction is impossible, save by adopting the other alternative; namely, that the moral law ignoring all vicious conditions, defects, and incapacities, prescribes the conduct of an ideal humanity. Pure and absolute rectitude can alone be its subject matter. Its object must be to determine the relationships in which men ought to stand to each other—to point out the principles of action in a normal society. By successive propositions it must aim to give a systematic statement of those conditions under which human beings may harmoniously combine; and to this end it requires as its postulate, that those human beings be perfect. Or we may term it the science of social life; a science that, in common with all other sciences, assumes perfection in the elements with which it deals.
$ 3. Treating therefore as it does on the abstract principles of right conduct, and the deductions to be made from these, a system of pure ethics cannot recognize evil, or any of those conditions which evil generates. It entirely ignores wrong, injustice, or crime, and gives no information as to what must be done when they have been committed. It knows no such thing as an infraction of the laws, for it is merely a statement of what the laws are. It simply says, such and such are the principles on which men should act; and when these are broken it can do nothing but say that they are broken. If asked what ought any one to do when another has knocked him down, it will not tell; it can only answer that an assault is a trespass against the law, and gives rise to a wrong relationship. It is silent as to the manner in which we should behave to a thief; all the information it affords is, that
theft is a disturbance of social equilibrium. We may learn from it that debt implies an infraction of the moral code; but whether the debtor should or should not be imprisoned, cannot be decided by it. To all questions which presuppose some antecedent unlawful action, such as-Should a barrister defend any one whom he believes to be guilty ? Ought a man to break an oath which he has taken to do something wrong? Is it proper to publish the misconduct of our fellows? the perfect law can give no reply, because it does not recognize the premises. In seeking to settle such points on purely ethical principles, moralists have attempted impossibilities. As well might they have tried to solve mathematically a series of problems respecting crooked lines and broken-backed curves, or to deduce from the theorems of mechanics the proper method of setting to work a dislocated machine. No conclusions can lay claim to absolute truth, but such as depend upon truths that are themselves absolute. Before there can be exactness in an inference, there must be exactness in the antecedent propositions. A geometri.
A cian requires that the straight lines with which he deals shall be veritably straight; and that his circles, and ellipses, and parabolas shall agree with precise definitions -shall perfectly and invariably answer to specified equations. If you put to him a question in which these conditions are not complied with, he tells you that it cannot be answered. So likewise is it with the philosophical moralist. He treats solely of the straight man. He determines the properties of the straight man; describes how the straight man comports himself; shows in what relationship he stands to other straight men; shows how a community of straight men is constituted. Any deviation from strict rectitude he is obliged wholly to ignore. It cannot be admitted into his premises without vitiating all his conclusions. A problem in which a crooked man forms one of the elements is insoluble by him. He may state what he thinks about it—may give an approximate solution; but any thing more is impossible. His decision is no longer scientific and authoritative, but is now merely an opinion.
Or perhaps the point may be most conveniently enforced, by using the science of the animal man, to illustrate that of the moral man. Physiology is defined as a classified statement of the phenomena of bodily life. It treats of the functions of our several organs in their normal states. It explains the relationships in which the members stand to each other—what are their respective duties—how such duties are performed, and why they are necessary. It exhibits the mutual dependence of the vital actions; points out how these are maintained in due balance, and describes the condition of things constituting perfect health. Disease it does not even recognize, and can therefore solve no questions concerning it. To the inquiryWhat is the cause of fever? or, what is the best remedy for a cold ? it gives no answer.
Such matters are out of its sphere. Could it reply it would be no longer Physiology, but Pathology, or Therapeutics. Just so it is with a true morality, which might properly enough be called-Moral Physiology. Its oflice is simply to expound the principles of moral health. Like its analogue, it has nothing to do with morbid actions and deranged functions. It deals only with the laws of a normal humanity, and cannot recognize a wrong, a depraved, or a disordered condition.
Hence it appears, that in treating of two such matters as the right of property, and the impropriety of duelling, as parts of the same science, moralists have confounded together subjects that are essentially distinct. The ques. tion, What are the right principles of human conduct ? is one thing; the question, What must be done when
PURE ETHICS A MORAL PHYSIOLOGY.
those principles have been broken through ? is another, and widely-different thing. Whether this last admits of any solution—whether it is possible to develop scientifically a Moral Pathology and a Moral Therapeutics seems very doubtful.
Be this as it may, however, it is very clear that a system of pure Ethics is independent of these. And it will be considered so throughout the ensuing investigations.
THE EVANESCENCE OF EVIL.
§ 1. All evil results from the non-adaptation of constitution to conditions. This is true of every thing that lives. Does a shrub dwindle in poor soil, or become sickly when deprived of light, or die outright if removed to a cold climate? it is because the harmony between its organization and its circumstances has been destroyed. Those experiences of the farmyard and the menagerie which show that pain, disease, and death, are entailed upon animals by certain kinds of treatment, may all be generalized under the same law. Every suffering incident to the human body, from a headache up to a fatal illness --from a burn or a sprain, to accidental loss of life, is similarly traceable to the having placed that body in a situation for which its powers did not fit it. Nor is the expression confined in its application to physical evil; it comprehends moral evil also. Is the kindhearted man distressed by the sight of misery? is the bachelor unhappy because his means will not permit him to marry ? does the mother mourn over her lost child ? does the emigrant lament leaving his father-land? are some made uncomfortable by having to pass their lives in distasteful occupations, and others from having no occupation at all ? the explanation is still the same. No matter what the special nature of the evil, it is invariably referable to the one generic cause-want of congruity between the faculties and their spheres of action.
§ 2. Equally true is it that evil perpetually tends to disappear. In virtue of an essential principle of life, this non-adaptation of an organism to its conditions is ever being rectified; and modification of one or both, continues until the adaptation is complete. Whatever possesses vitality, from the elementary cell up to man himself, in. clusive, obeys this law. We see it illustrated in the acclimatization of plants, in the altered habits of domesticated animals, in the varying characteristics of our own race. Accustomed to the brief arctic summer, the Siberian herbs and shrubs spring up, flower, and ripen their seeds, in the space of a few weeks. If exposed to the rigour of northern winters, animals of the temperate zone get thicker coats, and become white. The greyhound which, when first transported to the high plateaus of the Andes, fails in the chase from want of breath, acquires, in the course of generations, a more efficient pair of lungs. Cattle which in their wild state gave milk but for short periods, now give it almost continuously. Ambling is a pace not natural to the horse; yet there are American breeds that now take to it without training.
Man exhibits just the same adaptability. He alters in colour according to temperature-lives here upon rice, and there upon whale oil-gets larger digestive organs if he habitually eats innutritious food-acquires the power of long fasting if his mode of life is irregular, and loses it when the supply of food is certain-becomes fleet and