Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

out the principle of mutual support have the best chance to survive, while the others die out. And the same great principle is confirmed by the history of mankind.

It is most remarkable that in representing the social instinct under this aspect we return, in fact, to what Bacon, the great founder of inductive science, had perceived. In his programme of the work to be done by the next generations with the aid of the inductive method, in The Great Instauration, he wrote:

All things are endued with an appetite for two kinds of good-the one as a thing is a whole in itself, the other as it is a part of some greater whole ; and this latter is more worthy and more powerful than the other, as it tends to the conservation of a more ample form. The first may be called individual, or self-good, and the latter, good of communion. . . . And thus it generally happens that the conservation of the more general form regulates the appetites."

It may be asked, of course, whether such a conception agrees with the theory of natural selection, according to which struggle for life, within the species, was considered a necessary condition for the appearance of new species, and for evolution altogether ? Having already touched elsewhere upon this question, I will not enter here into its discussion, and will only add the following remark. Immediately after the appearance of Darwin's work on the origin of species we were all inclined to believe that an acute struggle for the means of existence between the members of the same species was necessary for accentuating the variations, and for the development of new species. But the deeper we go into the study of the facts of nature, and realise the direct influence of the surroundings for producing variation in a definite direction, as also the influence of isolation upon portions of the species separated from the main body in consequence of their migrations, we are prepared to understand struggle for life’ in a much wider and deeper sense. We see more and more the group of animals, acting as a whole, carrying on the struggle against adverse conditions, or against some such an enemy as a kindred species, by means of mutual support within the group, and thus acquiring habits which reduce the struggle, while they lead at the same time to a higher development of intelligence amongst those who took to mutual support. The above objection falls through in proportion as we advance in our knowledge of the struggle for life.

Nature has thus to be recognised as the first ethical teacher of man.

On the Dignity and Advancement of Learning, Book VII. chap. i. (p. 270 of J. Devey's edition in Bohn's Library). We certainly find Bacon's arguments in favour of this idea insufficient; but he was only establishing the outlines of a science, which had to be worked out by his followers. In another place he returns to the same idea. He speaks of two appetites (instincts) of the creatures,' (1) that of self-preservation and defence, and (2) that of multiplying and propagating,' and he adds : The latter, which is active, seems stronger and more worthy than the for which is passive.'

The social instinct, innate in men as well as it is in all the sociable animals, is the origin of all ethical conceptions and all the subsequent ethical development,

II

The starting point for a work on ethics, from the evolution point of view, was thus given by Darwin. Taking the social instinct as a basis for the further development of moral feelings, we had, first, to consolidate that basis, and then to build upon it the whole structure of ethics. Such a work, however, has not yet been carried out; those evolutionists who dealt with the question of morality having mostly followed, for one reason or another, the lines of preDarwinian ethical thought, but not those which were indicatedperhaps too briefly—in The Descent of Man.

This applies, as is known, to Herbert Spencer. It would certainly be out of place here to discuss his ethics as a whole, the more so as it contains portions of great value, which could not be dealt with incidentally. But it is only the more necessary to mention that the ethical philosophy of Spencer was constructed on a different plan. The ethical and sociological portions of his Synthetic Philosophy were worked out, in the main, long before the appearance of Darwin's essay on the moral sense, under the influence, partly of Auguste Comte, and partly of Bentham's utilitarianism and the eighteenth-century sensualists. It is only in the first chapters of Justice (published in this Review in March and April 1890) that we find in Spencer's work a reference to “animal ethics' and 'sub-human justice, to which Darwin had attributed such an importance for the development of the moral sense in man. However, this reference stands in no organic connection with the rest of Spencer's ethics, because he does not consider primitive men as sociable beings whose societies would have been a continuation of the animal clans and tribes. Remaining true to Hobbes, he considers them as loose aggregations of individuals, continually fighting each other, and emerging from this chaotic state only after some superior men had imposed social bonds upon them. The chapters on animal ethics are thus a superstructure in Spencer's ethical system. The moral sense of man is not a further development of the social feelings which existed amongst his remotest prehuman ancestors. It made its appearance at a much later epoch, originating from those restraints which were imposed upon men by their political, social, and religious authorities (Data, § 45). The sense of duty, as Bain had suggested after Hobbes, is a product, or rather 'a reminiscence,' of the coercion which was exercised at the early stages of mankind by its temporary leaders.

9 Spencer's Data of Ethics appeared in 1879, and his Justice in 1891; that is, long after Darwin's Descent of Man, which was published in 1871. But his Social Statics had already appeared in 1850. Spencer was, of course, quite right to insist upon the differences between his philosophical conceptions and those of Auguste Comte; but the influence upon him of the founder of Positivism is undeniable, notwithstanding the deep contrast between the minds of the two philosophers. To realise the influence of Comte it would be sufficient to compare Spencer's views on biology with those of the French philosopher, especially as they are expressed in chap. iii. of Discours préliminaire, in vol. i. of Politique positive. In ethics, the influence of Comte is especially apparent in the importance attributed by Spencer to the distinction between the ‘militant' and the industrial' stages of mankind, and the opposition between egoism' and 'altruism.' This last word is used in the too wide, and therefore indefinite, sense in which it was used by Comte when he had first coined it.

This admission-which, by the way, it would be difficult to support by modern investigation-puts its stamp upon all the further developments of Spencer's ethics. The history of mankind is divided into two stages : the ' militant,' which has prevailed till now, and the 'industrial,' which is slowly coming in at the present time, and both of which require their own special morality. Under the militant stage coercion was more than necessary : it was the very condition of progress. It was also necessary during that stage that the individual should be sacrificed to the community, and that a corresponding moral code should be elaborated. And this double necessity of coercion and sacrifice of the individual must continue to exist so long as the industrial state has not entirely taken the place of the militant state. Two different kinds of ethics, appropriated to these two different states, are thus admitted (Data, &$ 48–50), and such an admission leads to many conclusions which stand or fall with it. Moral science appears, therefore, as the search for a compromise between a code of enmity and a code of amity-between equality and inequality ($ 25). And as there is no issue out of that conflict because the coming of the industrial state will only be possible after the cessation of the conflict—there remains nothing to be done but to add a certain benevolence (some, but not too much) to the strictly individualistic principles which Spencer considers the embodiment of retributive justice. Therefore all his attempts to establish a standard of morality necessarily fail, and he finally comes to the unexpected conclusion that all the moral systems, philosophical and religious, complete each other; while Darwin's idea was, on the contrary, that sociability and the power of the social instinct are the common stock, out of which all systems and teachings of morality, including the ethical portions of the different religions, have originated.

It may be added, in conclusion, that although Spencer's conception of the struggle between egoism and altruism bears a great resemblance to Comte's treatment of this subject, the views of the Positivist philosopher concerning the social instinct-notwithstanding all his opposition to the transmutation of species—were nearer to the above-mentioned views of Darwin than to those of Spencer. Discussing the relative value of the two sets of instincts, social and

12

individual, Comte did not hesitate to recognise the preponderance of the former. He even saw in the recognition of this preponderance of the social instinct the distinctive feature of a moral philosophy which had broken with theology and metaphysics.10

As already said, none of the immediate followers of Darwin ventured to further develop his ethical philosophy. George Romanes probably would have made an exception, because he proposed, after he had studied animal intelligence, to discuss animal ethics and the probable genesis of the moral sense ; for which purpose he was already collecting the materials. Unfortunately, we lost him before he had sufficiently advanced in his work. As to the other evolutionists, they either adopted views in ethics very different from those of Darwin-such was the case of Huxley in his lecture, ' Evolution and Ethics '-or they worked on quite independent lines, after having taken the central idea of evolution as a basis. Such is the moral philosophy of Marc Guyau," which deals mainly with the higher aspects of morality without discussing the ethics of animals. This is why I thought necessary to discuss the subject anew in a work, Mutual Aid : a Factor of Evolution, in which the effect of the mutual aid instincts and habits was analysed as a factor of progressive evolution, both in the animal world and in human history. The same social habits of animals have to be analysed now from the double point of view of the ethical inclinations which our primitive ancestors have inherited from the prehuman stage, and the ethical lessons which they gained later on from the observation of nature ; and I must, therefore, ask the reader's indulgence if I briefly allude here to facts already mentioned in my mutual aid studies. Sociability in animals has a double significance, and therefore has to be considered under a double aspect. It is the weapon to which the group resorts in its struggle for existence, and as such it interests the naturalist. And it is the stock from which the ethical feelings of man have sprung, and as such it offers the deepest interest for the ethical philosopher. From this last point of view we have to analyse it now.

10 • Positive morality thus differs, not only from metaphysical, but also from theological morality, in taking for a universal principle the direct preponderance of the social feelings' (Politique positive, Discours préliminaire, 2nd part, p. 93, and in several other places). Unfortunately, the flashes of genius which one finds scattered throughout the Discours préliminaire are often obscured by Comte's ideas of his later period, which hardly could be described as a development of the positive method.

11 He mentions it in his Mental Evolution in Animals (London, 1883, p. 352).

12 A Sketch of Morality; English translation by Mrs. G. Kapteyn, London, 1898 (Watts).

13 The work of Professor Lloyd Morgan, who has lately rewritten his earlier book on animal intelligence under the new title of Animal Behaviour (London, 1900), is not yet terminated, and can only be mentioned as promising to give us a new and full treatment of the subject, especially from the point of view of comparative psychology. Other works dealing with the same subject, or having a bearing upon it, and of which Les Sociétés animales, by Espinas, deserves special mention, are enumerated in the preface of my work on mutual aid.

III

Primitive man lived in close intimacy with animals. With some of them he probably shared the shelters under the rocks, occasionally the caverns, and very often food. Not more than a hundred years ago the natives of Siberia and America astonished our naturalists by their thorough knowledge of the habits of the most retiring beasts and birds but primitive man stood in still closer relations to the animals, and knew them still better. The wholesale extermination of life by means of forest and prairie fires, poisoned arrows, and the like, had not yet begun ; and from the bewildering abundance of animal life which was found by the white settlers when they first took possession of the American continent we may judge of the density of the animal population during the early Post-glacial period. Palæolithic and neolithic man lived closely surrounded by his dumb brothersjust as the shipwrecked crew of Behring lived amidst the multitudes of polar foxes, which were prowling in the midst of their encampments and gnawing at night at the very furs upon which the men were sleeping. Our primitive ancestors lived with the animals, in the midst of them. And as soon as they began to bring some order into their observations of nature, and to transmit them to posterity, the animals and their life supplied them with the chief materials for their unwritten encyclopædia of knowledge, as well as for their wisdom, which they expressed in proverbs and sayings. Animal psychology was the first psychology which man was aware of—it is still a favourite subject of talk at the camp fires; and animal life, closely interwoven with that of man, was the subject of the very first rudiments of art, inspiring the first engravers and sculptors, and entering into the composition of the most ancient epical traditions and cosmogonic myths.

The first thing which our children learn in natural history is something about the beasts of prey—the lions and the tigers. But the first thing which primitive savages must have learned about nature was that it represents a vast agglomeration of animal clans and tribes : the ape tribe, so nearly related to man, the ever-prowling wolf tribe, the knowing, chattering bird tribe, the ever-busy insect tribe, and so For them the animals were an extension of their own kin-only so much wiser than themselves. And the first vague generalisation which men must have made about nature-so vague as to hardly differ from a mere impression—was that the living being and his clan or tribe are inseparable. We can separate themthey could not; and it seems even doubtful whether they could think of life otherwise than within a clan or a tribe.

Such an impression of nature was unavoidable. Among his nearest congeners—the monkeys and the apes—man saw hundreds of species living in large societies, united together within each group by

on.

« ZurückWeiter »