PROBLEMS OF CONDUCT
AN INTRODUCTORY SURVEY OF ETHICS
A.M. (Harvard) Ph.D. (Columbia)
Associate Professor of Ethics and Philosophy of Religion at Wesleyan University
BOSTON NEW YORK CHICAGO
TO THE DEAR TWO WHOSE INTEREST IN PROBLEMS OF CONDUCT FIRST AWAKENED MINE AND WHOSE EAGERNESS TO KNOW AND DO REMAINS UNDIMMED BY THE YEARS MY FATHER AND MY MOTHER
This book represents in substance a course of lectures and discussions given first at the University of Illinois and later at Wesleyan University. It was written to meet the needs both of the college student who has the added guidance of an instructor, and of the generalreader who has no such assistance. The attempt has been made to keep the presentation simple and clear enough to need no interpreter, and by the list of readings appended to each chapter, to make a self directed further study of any point easy and alluring. These references are for the most part to books in English, easily accessible, and both intelligible and interesting to the ordinary untrained reader or undergraduate. Some articles from the popular reviews have been included, which, if not always authoritative, are interesting and suggestive.
The function of the instructor who should use this as a textbook would consist, first, in making sure that the text was thoroughly read and understood; secondly, in raising doubts, suggesting opposing views, conducting a discussion with the object of making the student think for himself; and, thirdly, in adding new material and illustration and directing the outside readings which should supplement this purposely brief and summary treatment. The books to which reference is made in the lists of readings, and other books approved by the instructor, should be kept upon reserved shelves for the constant use of the class in the further study of questions suggested by the text or raised in the classroom.
It will be noticed that the disputes and the technical language of theorists have been throughout so far as possible avoided. The discussion of historical theories and isms' is unnecessarily bewildering to the beginner; and the aim has been rather to keep as close as possible to the actual experience of the student and the language of everyday life. Far more attention is given than in most books on ethics to concrete contemporary problems. After all, an insight into the fallacies of the reasoning of the various ethical schools, an ability to know what they are talking about and glibly refute them, is of less importance than an acquaintance with, and a firm, intelligent attitude toward, the vital moral problems and movements of the day. I have prayed to be saved from academic abstractness and remoteness, and to go as straight as I could to the real perplexities from which men suffer in deciding upon their conduct. The purpose of a study of ethics is, primarily, to get light for the guidance of life. And so, while referring to authors who differ from the views here expressed, I have sought to impart a definite conception of relative values, to offer a thread for guidance through the labyrinth of moral problems, and to effect a heightened realization of the importance and the possibilities of right living.
It is necessary, indeed, in order to justify and clarify our concrete moral judgments, that we should reach clear and firmly grounded conclusions upon the underlying abstract questions. And the habit of laying aside upon occasion one's instinctive or habitual moral preferences and discussing with open mind their justification and rationality is of great value to the individual and to society. Hence the first two Parts of this volume take up, as simply as is consonant with the really intricate questions involved, the history of the development of human morality and the psychological foundation of moral obligations and ideals. The exposition of the meaning of right and wrong there unfolded serves as a basis for the sound solution of the confused concrete issues, private and then public, which are discussed in the remainder of the volume.
An introductory outline of any subject must inevitably be superficial. To explain all the discriminations that are important to the specialist, to justify thoroughly all the positions taken, to do adequate justice to opposing views, would require ten volumes instead of one. And though there is a crying need of scholarly and elaborate discussion of the endless problems of morality, there is a prior need for the student of surveying the field, seeing what the problems are, how they are related, and what is approximately certain. The impression left by many ethical treatises, that everything is matter for dispute and no moral judgments are reliable, seems to me unfortunate; I have preferred to incur the charge of dogmatism rather than to fall into that error to offer a clear cut set of standards, to which exception will be taken by this critic or that, rather than to hold out to the student a chaos of confused possibilities.
No originality of viewpoint is claimed for this book. Its raison d'etre is simply to provide a clearer, more concrete, and more concisely comprehensive view of the nature of morality and its summons to men than has seemed to me available. I have drawn freely upon the thoughts of ethical teachers, classic and contemporary. These ideas are, or ought to be, common property; and it has been impracticable to trace them to their sources and offer detailed acknowledgment. Nothing has been presented here that has not first passed through the crucible of my own thinking and experience; and where the sparks came from that kindled each particular thought I am sure I do not know.
Portions of chapters xxi and xxix have appeared in the Forum and North American Review respectively; to the editors of these periodicals my thanks are due for permission to reprint.
MlDDLETOWN, CONN, August 3, 1914.
INTRODUCTORY. What is the field of ethics? Why should we study ethics?
PART I. THE EVOLUTION OF MORALITY
CHAPTER I. THE ORIGIN OF PERSONAL MORALITY... How early in the evolutionary process did personal morality of some sort emerge? What were the main causes that produced personal morality? How far has the moralizing process been blind and how far conscious?
CHAPTER II. THE ORIGIN OF SOCIAL MORALITY... How early was social morality developed? By what means was social morality produced? How has morality been fostered by the tribe?
CHAPTER III. OUTWARD DEVELOPMENT-MORALS... What is the difference between morals and non-moral customs? What, in general, has been the direction of moral progress? What definition of morality emerges from this? Is moral progress certain?
CHAPTER IV. INWARD DEVELOPMENT-CONSCIENCE... What are the stages in the history of moral guidance? Out of what has conscience developed? What is conscience now? What is the value of conscience?
CHAPTER V. THE INDIVIDUALIZING OF CONSCIENCE... Why did not the individualizing of conscience occur earlier? What forces made against custom-morality? Conservatism vs. radicalism. What are the dangers of conventional morality?
CHAPTER VI. CAN WE BASE MORALITY UPON CONSCIENCE... What is the meaning of "moral intuitionism"? Do the deliverances of different people's consciences agree? If conscience everywhere agreed in its dictates, could we base morality upon it? What is the plausibility of moral intuitionism?
PART II. THE THEORY OF MORALITY
CHAPTER VII. THE BASIS OF RIGHT AND WRONG... What is the nature of that intrinsic goodness upon which ultimately all valuations rest? What is extrinsic goodness? What sort of conduct, then, is good? And how shall we define virtue?
CHAPTER VIII. THE MEANING OF DUTY... Why are there conflicts between duty and inclination? Must we deny that duty is the servant of happiness? Does the end justify the means? What is the justification of justice and chivalry?
CHAPTER IX. THE JUDGMENT OF CHARACTER... Wherein consists goodness of character? Can we say, with Kant, that the only good is the Good Will? What evils may go with conscientiousness? What is the justification of praise and blame? What is responsibility?
CHAPTER X. THE SOLUTION OF PERSONAL PROBLEMS... What are the inadequacies of instinct and impulse that necessitate morality? What factors are to be considered in estimating the worth of personal moral ideals? Epicureanism vs. Puritanism. What are the evils in undue self-indulgence? What are the evils in undue self-repression?
CHAPTER XI. THE SOLUTION OF SOCIAL PROBLEMS... Why should we be altruistic? What is the exact meaning of selfishness and unselfishness? Are altruistic impulses always right? What mental and moral obstacles hinder altruistic action? How can we reconcile egoism and altruism?
CHAPTER XII. OBJECTIONS AND MISUNDERSTANDINGS... Do men always act for pleasure or to avoid pain? Are pleasures and pains incommensurable? Are some pleasures worthier than others? Is morality merely subjective and relative?
CHAPTER XIII. ALTEBNATIVE THEORIES... Is morality "categorical," beyond need of justification? Should we live "according to nature," and adjust ourselves to the evolutionary process? Is self-development, or self-realization, the ultimate end? Is the source of duty the will of God?
CHAPTER XIV. THE WORTH OF MORALITY... Morality as the organization of human interests. Do moral acts always bring happiness somewhere? Is there anything better than morality?
PART III. PERSONAL MORALITY
CHAPTER XV. HEALTH AND EFFICIENCY... What is the moral importance of health? Can we attain to greater health and efficiency? Is continued idleness ever justifiable? Are competitive athletics desirable? Is it wrong to smoke?
CHAPTER XVI. THE ALCOHOL PROBLEM... What are the causes of the use of alcoholic drinks? What are the evils that result from alcoholic liquors? What should be the attitude of the individual toward alcoholic liquors? What should be our attitude toward the use of alcoholic liquors by others?
CHAPTER XVII. CHASTITY AND MARRIAGE... What are the reasons for chastity before and fidelity after marriage? What safeguards against unchastity are necessary? What are the factors in an ideal marriage? 1Is divorce morally justifiable?
CHAPTER XVIII. FELLOWSHIP, LOYALTY, AND LUXURY... what social relationships impose claims upon us? What general duties do we owe our fellows? Are the rich justified in living in luxury? Is it wrong to gamble, bet, or speculate?
CHAPTER XIX. TRUTHFULNESS AND ITS PROBLEMS... What are the reasons for the obligation of truthfulness? What exceptions are allowable to the duty of truthfulness? In what directions are our standards of truthfulness low? The ethics of journalism.
CHAPTER XX. CULTURE AND ART... What is the value of culture and art? What is most important in cultural education? What dangers are there in culture and art for life? Should art be censored in the interests of morality?
CHAPTER XXI. THE MECHANISM OF SELF-CONTROL... What are our potentialities of greater self-control? A practicable mechanism of self-control. Various accessories and safeguards.
CHAPTER XXII. THE ATTAINABILITY OF HAPPINESS... The threefold key to happiness: I. Hearty allegiance to duty. II. Hearty acquiescence in our lot. III. Hearty appreciation of the wonder and beauty in life. Can we maintain a steady under glow of happiness?
PART IV. PUBLIC MORALITY
CHAPTER XXIII. PATRIOTISM AND WORLD-PEACE... What is the meaning and value of patriotism? How should patriotism be directed and qualified? What have been the benefits of war? What are the evils of war? What can we do to hasten world-peace?
CHAPTER XXIV. POLITICAL PURITY AND EFFICIENCY... What are the forces making for corruption in politics? What are the evil results of political corruption? What is the political duty of the citizen? What legislative checks to corruption are possible?
CHAPTER XXV. SOCIAL ALLEVIATION... What is the duty of the State in regard to: I. Sickness and preventable death? II. Poverty and inadequate living conditions? III. Commercialized vice? IV. Crime?
CHAPTER XXVI. INDUSTRIAL WRONGS... In our present organization of industry, what are the duties of businessmen: I. To the public? II. To investors? III. To competitors? IV. To employees? What general remedies for industrial wrongs are feasible?
CHAPTER XXVII. INDUSTRIAL RECONSTRUCTION... Ought the trusts to be broken up, or regulated? What are the ethics of the following schemes: I. Trade-unions and strikes? II. Profit-sharing, cooperation, consumers' leagues? III. Government regulation of prices, profits, and wages? IV. Socialism?
CHAPTER XXVIII. LIBERTY AND LAW... What are the essential aspects of the ideal of liberty? The ideal of individualism. The ideal of legal control. Should existing laws always be obeyed?
CHAPTER XXIX. EQUALITY AND PRIVILEGE... What flagrant forms of inequality exist in our society? What methods of equalizing opportunity are possible? What are the ethics of: I. The single tax? II. Free trade and protection? III. The control of immigration? IV. The woman's movement?
CHAPTER XXX. THE FUTURE OF THE RACE... In what ways should the State seek to better human environment? What should be done in the way of public education? hat can be done by eugenics? What are the gravest moral dangers of our times?
PROBLEMS OF CONDUCT
What is the field of ethics?
To know what exists, in its stark reality, is the concern of natural science and natural philosophy; to know what matters, is the field of moral philosophy, or ethics. The one group of studies deals with facts simply as facts, the other with their values. Human life is checkered with the sunshine and shadow of good and evil, joy and pain; it is these qualitative differences that make it something more than a meaningless eddy in the cosmic whirl. Natural philosophy (including the physical and psychological sciences), drawing its impartial map of existence, is interesting and important; it informs us about our environment and ourselves, shows us our resources and our powers, what we can do and how to do it. Moral philosophy asks the deeper and more significant question, What SHALL we do? For the momentous fact about life is that it has differences in value, and, more than that, that we can MAKE differences in value. Caught as we are by the irresistible flux of existence, we find ourselves able so to steer our lives as to change the proportion of light and shade, to give greater value to a life that might have had less. This possibility makes our moral problem. What shall we choose and from what refrain? To what aims shall we give our allegiance? What shall we fight for and what against?
For the savage practically all of his activity is determined by his imperative needs, so that there is little opportunity for choice or reflection upon the aims of his life. He must find food, and shelter, and clothing to keep himself warm and dry; he must protect himself from the enemies that menace him, and rest when he is tired. Nor are most of us today far removed from that primitive condition; the moments when we consciously choose and steer our course are few and fleeting. Yet with the development of civilization the elemental burdens are to some extent lifted; men come to have superfluous strength, leisure hours, freedom to do something more than merely earn their living. And further, with the development of intelligence, new ways of fulfilling the necessary tasks suggest themselves, moral problems arise where none were felt before. Men learn that they have not made the most of their opportunities or lived the best possible lives; they have veered this way and that according to the moment's impulse, they have been misled by ingrained habits and paralyzed by inertia, they have wandered at random for lack of a clear vision of their goal. The task of the moralist is to attain such a clear vision; to understand, first, the basis of all preference, and then, in detail, the reasons for preferring this concrete act to that. Here are a thousand impulses and instincts drawing us, with infinite further possibilities suggesting themselves to reflection; the more developed our natures the more frequently do our desires conflict. Why is any one better than another? How can we decide between them? Or shall we perhaps disown them all for some other and better way.
Man's effort to solve these problems is revealed outwardly in a multitude of precepts and laws, in customs and conventions; and inwardly in the sense of duty and shame, in aspiration, in the instinctive reactions of praise, blame, contentment, and remorse. The leadings of these forces are, however, often divergent, sometimes radically so. We must seek a completer insight. There must be some best way of solving the problem of life, some happiest, most useful way of living; its pursuit constitutes the field of ethics. Nothing could be more practical, more vital, more universally human.
Why should we study ethics?
(1) The most obvious reason for the study of ethics is that we may get more light for our daily problems. We are constantly having to choose how we shall act and being perplexed by opposing advantages. Decide one way or the other we must. On what grounds shall we decide? How shall we feel assured that we are following a real duty, pursuing an actual good, and not being led astray by a mere prejudice or convention? The alternative is, to decide on impulse, at haphazard, after some superficial and one-sided reflection; or to think the matter through, to get some definite criteria for judgments, and to face the recurrent question, what shall we do? In the steady light of those principles. [Footnote: Cf. Matthew Arnold, Essays in Criticism, vol. i: "Marcus Aurelius," opening paragraph: "The object of systems of morality is to take possession of human life, to save it from being abandoned to passion or allowed to drift at hazard, to give it happiness by establishing it in the practice of virtue; and this object they seek to attain by presenting to human life fixed principles of action, fixed rules of conduct. In its uninspired as well as in its inspired moments, in its days of languor or gloom as well as in its days of sunshine and energy, human life has thus always a clue to follow, and may always be making way towards its goal."]
(2) In addition to the fact that we all have unavoidable problems which we must solve one way or another, a little familiarity with life, an acquaintance with the biographies of great and good men, should lead us to suspect that beyond the horizon of these immediate needs lie whole ranges of beautiful and happy living to which comparatively few ever attain. There are better ways of doing things than most of us have dreamed. The study of ethics should reveal these vistas and stimulate us to a noble discontent with our inferior morals. [Footnote: Cf. Emerson, in a letter to Fraulein Gisela von Arnim: "In reading your letter, I felt, as when I read rarely a good novel, rebuked that I do not use in my life these delicious relations; or that I accept anything inferior or ugly."] Such a forward look and development of ideals not only adds greatly to the worth of life but prepares a man to meet perplexities and temptations which may some day arise. It pays to educate one's self for future emergencies by meditating not only upon present problems but upon the further potentialities of conduct, right and wrong, that may lie ahead, and building up a code for one's self that will make life not only richer but steadier and more secure.
(3) Another advantage of a systematic study of ethics is that it can make clearer to us WHY one act is better than another; why duty is justified in thwarting our inclinations and conscience is to be obeyed. Not only is this an intellectual gain, but it is an immense fortification to the will. There comes a time in the experience of every thinking man when a command not reinforced by a reason breeds distrust, and when until he can intelligently defend an ideal he will hesitate to give it his allegiance. Morality, to be depended upon, must be not a mere matter of breeding and convention, or of impulse and emotion, but the result of rational insight and conscious resolve. To many people morality seems nothing but convention, or an arbitrary tyranny, or a mysterious and awful necessity, something extraneous to their own desires, from which they would like to escape. To be able to refute these skeptics, expose the sophisms and specious arguments by which they support their wrongdoing, and show that they have chosen the lesser good, is a valuable help to the community and to one's own integrity of conduct. Too often the people perish for lack of vision; an understanding of the naturalness and enormous desirability of morality, together with an appreciation of its main injunctions, would enlist upon its side many restless spirits who now chafe under a sense of needless restraint and seek some delusory freedom which leads to pain and death. Morality is simply the best way of living; and the more fully men realize that, the more readily will they submit themselves to the sacrifices it requires.
(4) Finally, a study of ethics should help us to see what are the prevalent sins and moral dangers of our day, and thus arouse us to put the weight of our blame and praise where they are needed. Widespread public opinion is a force of incalculable power, which is largely unused. Politics and business, and to a far greater extent than now private life, will become clean and honest and kind just so soon as a sufficient number of people wake up and demand it. We have the power to make sins which are now generally tolerated and respectable, so odious, so infamous, that they will practically disappear. There are certain of the older forms of sin which the race in its long struggle upward has so effectually blacklisted that only a few perverts now lapse into them; we have execrated out of existence whole classes of cruelty and vice. But with the changing and ever more complex relations of society new forms of sin continually creep in; these we have not yet come to brand with the odium they deserve. Leaders of society and pillars of the church are often, and usually without disturbance of conscience, guilty of wrongdoing as grave in its effects, or graver, than many of the faults we relentlessly chastise. On the other hand, many really useful reforms are blocked because they awaken old prejudices or cross silly and meaningless conventions. The air is full of proposals, invectives, causes, movements; how shall we know which to espouse and which to reject, or where best to lend a hand? We need a consistent and well-founded point of view from which to judge. To get such a sane and far-sighted moral perspective; to see the acts of our fellow men with a proper valuation; to be able to point out the insidious dangers of conduct which is not yet as generally rebuked as it ought to be; and at the same time to emancipate ourselves and others from the mistaken and merely arbitrary precepts that are intermingled with our genuine morality, and so attain the largest possible freedom of action, such should be the outcome of a thorough study of ethical principles and ideals.
THE EVOLUTION OF MORALITY
THE ORIGIN OP PERSONAL MORALITY
In almost any field it is wise to precede definition by an impartial survey of the subject matter. So if we are to form an unbiased conception of what morality is, it will be safest to consider first what the morals of men actually have been, how they came into being, and what function they have served in human life. Thus we shall be sure that our theory is in touch with reality, and be saved from mere closet-philosophies and irrelevant speculations. Our task in this First Part will be not to criticize by reference to any ethical standards, but to observe and describe, as a mere bit of preliminary sociology, what it is in their lives to which men have given the name "morality," of what use it has been, and through the action of what forces it has tended to develop. With these data in mind, we shall be the better able, in the Second Part, to formulate our criteria for judging the different codes of morality; we shall find that we are but making explicit and conscious the considerations that, unexpressed and unrealized, have been the persistent and underlying factors in their development. How early in the evolutionary process did personal morality of some sort emerge? Of course the words (in any language) and the explicit conceptions "morality," "duty," "right," "wrong," etc, are very late in appearance, presupposing as they do a power of reflection and abstraction which develops only in man and with a considerable civilization. Even in the Homeric poems, which reflect a degree of mental cultivation in some respects equal to our own, these concepts hardly appear. But ages earlier, far back in the course of animal evolution, there emerged phenomena which we may consider rudimentary forms of morality; and all early human history was replete writh unanalyzed and unformulated moral struggles. Concretely, we mean by personal morality courage, industriousness, self-control, prudence, temperance, and other similar phenomena, which have this in common, that they involve a crossing of earlier-developed impulses and redirection of the individual's conduct, with the result, normally, that his welfare is enhanced. Exceptions to this result will be considered later; but the point to be noted at the outset is that personal morality is not at first the outcome of reflection, or a purely human affair. If we were to take the term "morality" in a narrower sense, as meaning conscious obedience to a sense of duty or to the moral law, it would obviously be a late product. But morality in this sense is only an ultimate development of what in its less conscious and reflective forms dates far back in pre-human history.
Take courage, for example, which may be briefly defined as action in spite of the instinct of fear and contrary to its leading. Nearly all of the higher animals exhibit courage in greater or less degree, and there are many touching instances of it recorded to the credit of those we best know. Industriousness, again, is proverbial in the case of bees and ants "Go to the ant, thou sluggard!"—and noteworthy in the case of many birds, of beavers, and a long list of other animals. Prudence may be illustrated by the case of the camel who fills himself with water enough to last for many desert days, or that of the bird who builds her nest with remarkable ingenuity and pains out of the reach of invaders. Whether or not we shall attribute self-control to the lower animals is a mere matter of definition; in the looser sense we may credit with it the hungry fox who does not touch the bait whose dangerous nature he vaguely suspects. Temperance is probably one of the latest of the virtues, and is rather conspicuously absent in much of human history and biography; but perhaps students of animal psychology can guarantee instances to which the name might fairly be given.
In lesser degree, then, but unmistakably present, we find the same sort of conduct appearing in the animals to which we give in man the names courage, prudence, etc. Purely instinctive these acts usually are though we may see even in the animals the beginnings of mental conflicts, of reasoning, of reflection. But morality (if we keep to the wider sense of the term) is none the less morality when it is instinctive and natural. Morality is a general name for certain KINDS of conduct, certain redirections of impulse. These redirections appeared in animal life long before the emergence of what we may call man from his ape-like ancestry; and all of our self-conscious moral idealism is but a continuation and development of the process then begun. Any theory of right and wrong must take account of the fact that morality, unlike art, science, and religion, is not an exclusively human affair. In contrast with these late and purely human innovations, it is hoary with antiquity and the possession, in some rudimentary form or other, of nearly the whole realm of organic life.
What were the main causes that produced personal morality?
How did these germinal forms of courage, prudence, industriousness, etc, first come into existence? The answer to this question will also show what are the main underlying causes that promote these virtues today.
(1) They are in part due to certain organic needs and cravings which exist independently of the individual's environment. Hunger and thirst imperiously check the tendency to laziness, or heedlessness, and stimulate to industriousness and prudence. To this day the mere need of food and clothing and shelter is the main bulwark of these virtues. The acquisitive impulse, which is also rather early in appearance, has an increasing share in this sort of moralization. The craving for action, which is the natural result of abundant nervous and muscular energy, the combative instinct, the joy of conquest and achievement, and the sexual impulse, go far in counteracting cowardice and inertia. The artistic impulse, when it emerges in man, long before the dawn of history, makes against caprice for orderliness, self-control, and patience. Ambition is a potent force in human affairs. The desire for the approval of others, which is prehuman, makes for all the virtues.
(2) But in addition to these inward springs of morality there is the constant pressure of a hostile environment. Cold, storms, rivers that block journeys, forests that must be felled, treacherous seas that lure with promise and exact toll for carelessness, arouse men out of their torpor and aid the development of the virtues we have been considering. The necessity of rearing some sort of shelter makes against laziness for industry and perseverance. The dangers of wind or flood check heedlessness in the choice of location for the home and foster prudence and foresight. In the harsher climates man is more goaded by nature; hence more moral progress has, probably, been effected in the temperate than in the tropical zones.
(3) A third and very important source lies in the mutual hostility of the animal species and of men. Slothfulness and recklessness mean for the great majority of animals the imminent risk of becoming the prey of some stronger animal. Among tribes of men the ceaseless struggles for supremacy have pricked cowardice into courage, demanded self-control instead of temper, supplanted gluttony and drunkenness by temperance. Cruel as has been the suffering caused by war, and deplorable as most of its effects, it did a great deal in the early stages of man's history to promote the personal virtues, alertness, moderation, caution, courage, and efficiency.
In the latest stages of man's development, conscious regard for law and custom, the fear of gods, the explicit recognition of duty and conscience, and the direct pursuit of ideals-all the reflective considerations that we may lump together under the word "conscientiousness"-play their ever increasing part and complicate the psychological situation. But even in modern civilized man the underlying animal forces count for far more. And without them the later self-conscious forces would not have come into play at all. There is a small class of people who are dominated throughout their activities by consciously present ideals or obedience to religious injunctions. But the average man still acts mainly under the pressure of the more primitive forces which we have enumerated.
How far has the moralizing process been blind and how far conscious?
(1) To a very large extent the moralizing process has been a merely mechanical one. Through slight differences in nerve-structure individuals have varied a little in their response to the pressure of inward cravings and outward perils. The braver, the more prudent, the more industrious have had a better chance of survival. So by the process which we have come to call natural selection there has been a continual weeding-out of the relatively lazy, cowardly, reckless, and imprudent. Much of our morality is the result of tendencies thus long cultivated by the ruthless methods of nature; we inherit a complex nervous organization, the outcome of ages of molding and selection, which now instinctively and easily responds to stimuli with a certain degree of inbred morality. This is the case much more than is apparent upon the surface. The child seems very unmoral, the mere prey of passing impulses; but latent in his brain are many aptitudes and tendencies which will at the proper time ripen and manifest themselves. The period of adolescence is that during which the changes in mental structure which were effected during the later stages of evolution are being made in the mind of this new individual; he reenacts, as it were, in a few years, the history of the race, and emerges without any conscious effort, the possessor of the fruits of that long struggle of which he was always the heir.
(2) In all the later stages of animal evolution, however, moral development is largely conscious, or semi-conscious. Besides our inner inheritance of altered brain-paths there is a social inheritance of habits which each generation adopts by imitation of its predecessors. Without any deliberate intention, the young of every species imitate their parents, and then the older members of the flock or herd. "Suggestion" is said by some to be the chief means of moralization; we are brave or industrious because we see others practicing these virtues and naturally do as they do. At any rate, whichever are more important, the inherited tendencies or those acquired by contagion, both of these factors play a large part in the development of the individual's morals.
(3) The third method of moral development is that which we call "learning by experience." The pain or dissatisfaction which a wrong impulse brings in its train, the satisfaction which follows a moral act, are remembered, and recur with the recurrence of a similar situation, becoming perhaps the decisive factors in steering the animal or man toward his true welfare. Many animals quite low in the organic scale learn by experience; and though of course the degree of consciousness that accompanies these readjustments varies enormously, this method of moralization may be said to be always, like the preceding, a more or less conscious process. Learning by experience is subject, of course, to many mistaken judgments; the fallacy of post hoc propter hoc leads many learners to avoid perfectly innocent acts as supposedly involving some evil result with which they were once by chance connected; and the true causes of the evils are often overlooked. Even when dimly conscious readjustments become highly conscious deliberation, the results of that deliberation may be less forwarding morally than the unconscious and merciless grinding of natural selection.
More and more, of course, as men grew in power of reflection, did they consciously shape their morals; and this intelligent selection, which has as yet played a comparatively small role, is bound, as men become more and more rational, to supersede in importance the other factors in moral evolution. But in the later phases of evolution all three of these processes blend together; and it would be impossible for the keenest analyst to tell how much of his conduct was determined in each of these ways.
H. Spencer, Data of Ethics (also published as the first part of his Principles of Ethics), chap. I and chap. II, through sec. 4; or J. Fiske, Cosmic Philosophy, part II, chap, XXII, first half, to "We are now prepared to deal." L. T. Hobhouse, Morals in Evolution, part I, chap. I, secs. 1-4. I. King, Development of Religion, pp. 48-59 A great mass of concrete material will be found in E. Westermarck's Origin and Development of Moral Ideas, H. O. Taylor's Ancient Ideals, W. E. H. Leeky's History of European Morals.
THE ORIGIN OF SOCIAL MORALITY
How early was social morality developed?
By social morality we mean, concretely, such virtues as tender and fostering love, sympathy, obedience, subordination of selfish instincts to group-demands, the service of other individuals or of the group. These habits are later in development than some of the personal virtues, but long antedate the differentiation of man from the other animals. Instances of self-sacrificing devotion of parent to offspring among birds and beasts are too common to need mention. Devotion to the mate, though less developed, is early present in many species. The strict subordination of ants and bees to the common welfare is a well-known marvel, the latter enthusiastically and poetically described by Maeterlinck in his delightful Life of the Bees. The stern requirements of obedience to the unwritten laws of the herd, which make powerful so many species of animals individually weak, are graphically, though of course with exaggeration, set forth by Kipling in his Jungle Book. Many sorts of animals, such as deer and antelopes, might long ago have been exterminated but for their mutual cooperation and service. Affection and sympathy in high degree are evident in some sub-human species. When we come to man, we find his earliest recorded life based upon a social morality which, if crude, was in some respects stricter than that of today. It is a mistake to think of the savage as Rousseau imagined him, a freehearted, happy-go-lucky individualist, only by a cramping civilization bowed under the yoke of laws and conventions. Savage life is essentially group-life; the individual is nothing, the tribe everything. The gods are tribal gods, warfare is tribal warfare, hunting, sowing, harvesting, are carried on by the community as a whole. There are few personal possessions, there is little personal will; obedience to the tribal customs, and mutual cooperation, are universal. [Footnote: As an example of the solidarity of barbarous tribes, note how Abimelech, seeking election as king, says to "all the men of Shechem": "Remember that I am your bone and your flesh." (Judges IX, 2.) Later, "all the tribes of Israel" say to David, "Behold, we are thy bone and thy flesh." (2 Sam. V, 1.) Of savage life as observed in modern times we have many reports like this: "Many strange customs and laws obtain in Zululand, but there is no moral code in all the world more rigidly observed than that of the Zulus." (R. H. Millward, quoted by Myers, History as Past Ethics, p. 11.) Compare this: "A Kafir feels that the 'frame that binds him in' extends to the clan. The sense of solidarity of the family in Europe is thin and feeble compared to the full-blooded sense of corporate union of the Kafir clan. The claims of the clan entirely swamp the rights of the individual." (Kidd, Savage Childhood, p. 74.) An elaborate and stern social morality, then, long preceded verbally formulated laws; it was a matter of instinct and emotion long before it was a matter of calculation or conscience. The most primitive men acknowledge a duty to their neighbors; and the subsequent advance of social morality has consisted simply in more and more comprehensive answers to the questions, What is my duty? and Who is my neighbor? At first, the neighbor was the fellow tribesman only, all outsiders being deemed fair prey. Every member of the clan instinctively arose to avenge an injury to any other member, and rejoiced in triumphs over their common foes. We still have survivals of this primitive code in the Corsican vendettas and Kentucky feuds. With the growth of nations, the cooperative spirit came to embrace wider and wider circles; but even as yet there is little of it in international relations. The old double standard of morality persists in spite of the command to which we give theoretic allegiance-"Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies!" From the same lips came the final answer to the question, "Who is my neighbour?" It can be found in the tenth chapter of the Gospel according to Luke. By what means was social morality produced?
(1) The earliest source of social morality lies in the maternal instinct; the first animal that took care of its young stood at the beginning of this wonderful advance. The originating causes of the first slight care of eggs or offspring lay, no doubt, in some obscure physiological readjustments, due to forces irrelevant to morality. But the young that had even such slight care had a survival advantage over their rivals, and would transmit the rudimentary instinct to their offspring. Thus, given a start in that direction, natural selection, steadily favoring the more maternally disposed, produced species with a highly developed and long continuing maternal love. In similar manner but in lesser degree a paternal instinct was developed. The existence of these instincts implied the power of sympathy and altruistic action that is, action by one individual for another's welfare. From sympathy for offspring to sympathy for mate and other members of the group was but a step; and all sympathetic action may have its ultimate source in mother love.
(2) Not only was natural selection early at work in the rivalry for existence between individuals, protecting those stocks that had the stronger maternal and paternal instincts, but it played an important part in the struggle between groups. Those species that developed the ability to keep together for mutual protection or for advantage. And within a species those particular herds or flocks or tribes that cooperated best outlived the others. With the strongest animals, such as lions and tigers, and with the weakest, such as rabbits and mice, the instinct to stand by one another is of no value and so was never fostered by natural selection. But in many species of animals of intermediate strength, that by cooperation might be able to resist attack or overcome enemies that they would singly be impotent against, the cooperative instinct became strongly developed. Notably in such case was man; and we find group consciousness, tribal loyalty, continually enhanced by the killing off of the tribes in which it was feebler. The dominant races in man's internecine struggles have been those of passionate patriotism and capacity for working together. Nature has socialized man by a repeated application of the method hinted at in the adage "United we stand, divided we fall." Successful war demands loyalty and obedience, self-forgetfulness and mutual service. It demands also the cessation of internal squabbling, the restraint of individual greed, lust, and caprice. At first instinctive, these virtues came with clearing consciousness to be deliberately cultivated by the tribe, in ways which we shall in a moment indicate.
(3) As in the development of personal morality, the hostility of inanimate nature, coupled with the urgency of inner needs, has also played its part in the socialization of man. The satisfying of hunger, protection against storm, flood, and other physical calamities, is greatly forwarded by cooperation. The rearing of a shelter, for example, that shall be at all comfortable and secure, demands the labor of several. With the development of civilization, mutual assistance and the division of labor become more and more imperative. As man developed more and more into a reflective animal, the comprehension of these advantages became clearer and clearer to him. Resentment against mere individualism grew keener; and any member whose laziness or passions led him to pull apart from the common good had to incur the anger of his fellows. Under these three heads—the selection of the maternal instinct, with its potentialities of universal sympathy, through the struggle between individuals; the selection of the various powers of loyalty and cooperation through the struggle between groups; and the production of cooperative habits through the struggle with inanimate nature-we may group the causes of social morality in man. How has morality been fostered by the tribe? Social morality, like personal morality, is passed on from generation to generation by heredity and by imitation. Both, in historic man, are also deliberately cultivated by the tribe. We have discriminated between the two aspects of morality for theoretic reasons which will later become apparent; but no discrimination is possible or needful for the savage. Courage and prudence and industriousness and temperance in its members are assets of the tribe, and are included among its requirements. We shall now consider in what ways the group brings pressure to bear upon the individual and influences his moral development.
(1) It needs no great powers of observation to convince the members of a tribe severally that immorality of any sort-laziness, cowardice, unrestrained lust, recklessness, quarrelsomeness, insubordination, etc. in another member is detrimental to him personally. His own security and the satisfaction of his needs are thereby in some degree decreased. Contentment at the morality of the other members of the group, and anger at their immorality, are therefore among the earliest psychological reactions. No men, however savage, are insensitive to these attitudes of their fellows; and the emotional response of others to their acts is from the beginning a powerful force for morality. When contentment becomes explicitly expressed, becomes praise, commendation, honor; when anger becomes openly uttered blame, contempt, ridicule, rebuke, their power is well nigh irresistible. A civilized man, with his manifold resources, may defy public opinion; the savage, who cannot with safety live alone and has few personal interests to fill his mind, is unavoidably subject to its sting. His impulses and passions lead him often to immoral conduct, but he is pretty sure to suffer from the condemnation of his fellows. The memory of that penalty in his own case, or the sight of it in the case of others, may be a considerable deterrent; while, on the other hand, the craving for applause and esteem may be a powerful incentive.
(2) Even among some of the animals, the resentment against the misconduct of a member of the herd finds expression in outward punishment maltreatment or death. Among men, punishments for the immoral and outward honors for the virtuous antedate history. Decorations, tattoos, songs, for the conspicuously brave and efficient, death or some lesser penalty for the cowardly, the traitorous, the insubordinate, figure largely in primitive life. These honors are capricious, uncertain, and transitory; but they are undoubtedly more stimulating to the savage, who lives in the moment, than they are in the more complex existence of the modern man. And while in general the savage is more callous to punishments, he has to fear much severer penalties than our humane conscience allows. They are inflicted, of course, with greatest frequency for those sins which instinctively arouse the hottest anger; that in turn varies with different types of men and various accidental circumstances that have determined the tribal points of view. But in general it is the virtues that most obviously benefit the tribe that are rewarded, and those that most obviously harm it that are punished.
(3) Another important means of securing morality in the tribe is the education of the young. This includes not only deliberate instruction, encouragement, and warning, but various symbolic rites and customs, whose value in impressing the plastic minds of the boys and girls of the tribe is only half realized. Initiation into manhood is accompanied in many races of men by solemn ceremonies, which instill into the youth the necessity and glory of courage, endurance, self-control, and other virtues. The maidens are taught by equally solemn rites the obligatoriness of chastity. The lowest races studied by anthropologists which, however, represent, of course, the result of ages of evolution have commonly an elaborate provision for the guidance of the young into the paths of the tribal morals.
(4) Further, all occasions upon which the tribe gets together for common work or play strengthen the group loyalty and make the group welfare appeal to the member as his own good. Hunting expeditions and wars, the sowing and reaping of the communal harvest, births, marriages, and deaths, in which usually the group as a whole takes a keen interest, feasts and dances, bard recitals, in common undertakings, dangers, calamities, triumphs, and celebrations, merge the individuality of the separate members into a unity. In many primitive races these influences are so strong that the individual has scarcely any separate life, but lives from childhood till death for the tribe and its welfare.
(5) Religion is, until late in civilization, almost wholly a group affair. The gods are tribal gods, their commands are chiefly the more obvious duties to the tribe. The fear of their displeasure and the hope of their assistance are among the most powerful of the sanctions of early morality. Where a special set of men are set aside as priests, to foster the religious consciousness and insure obedience to the divine behests, he is rash who dares openly to transgress. The idea of "taboo" of certain acts which must not be done, certain objects which must not be touched, etc. i extraordinarily prominent among many early peoples. The taboo may not be clearly connected with a divine prohibition; but, whether vague and mysterious or explicit, it brings the awe of the supernatural to bear upon daily conduct. The worship of the gods is one of the most important of the common activities, covered by the preceding paragraph, which make for the unifying of a tribe; and the sense of their presence and jealous interest in its welfare one of the strongest motives that restrain the individual from cowardice or lust or any anti-social conduct.
(6) With the development of language, the moral experience of a people becomes crystallized into maxims, proverbs, and injunctions, which the elders pass on to the boys and girls together with their comments and personal instruction. Oral precepts thus condense the gist of recurrent experience for the benefit of each new generation. Such saws as "Honesty is the best policy," "Lies are short lived," "Ill gotten gains do not prosper," date, no doubt, well back toward the origin of articulate language. The gathering antiquity of this inherited counsel adds prestige to the personal authority of the old men who love to repeat it; and the customs once instinctive and unconsciously imitated, or adopted from fear and the hope of praise, are now consciously cultivated as intrinsically desirable. There is, of course, very little realization of WHY some acts are commended and others prohibited; the mere fact that such and such are the tribal customs, that thus and so things have been done, is enough. Primitive peoples are highly innovation. So that the moral habits which were established before the age of reflection and articulate speech remain for the most part after they have become crystallized into precepts and commands, and by this articulating process become much more firmly entrenched. Then from the existence of miscellaneous maxims and prohibitions, taught by the elders and linked with whatever impulsive and haphazard punishments are customary, to the formulation of legal codes, with definite penalties attached to specific infringements, is an easy transition. With the invention of written language these laws could become still better fixed and more clearly known. The appointment of certain men of authority as judges, to investigate alleged cases of transgression and award the proper penalties, completes the evolution of a civilized legal system, the most powerful of all deterrents from flagrantly anti- social acts. Dewey and Tufts, Ethics, chaps. II, III. H. Spencer, Data of Ethics, chap. II, secs. 5, 6. J. Fiske, Cosmic Philosophy, part II, chap. XXII, second half. A. Sutherland, Origin and Growth of the Moral Instinct, vol. I. C. S. Wake, Evolution of Morality, vol. I, chaps. V, VI, VII. P. V. N. Myers, History as Past Ethics, chap. I. P. Kropotkin, Mutual Aid, chaps. I-IV. L. T. Hobhouse, Morals in Evolution, part I, chaps. I-III. Westermarck, op. cit, chap. XXXIV. J. Fiske, Through Nature to God, part II, "The Cosmic Roots of Love and Self-Sacrifice." C. Read, Natural and Social Morals, chap. III.
What is the difference between morals and non-moral customs?
MORALITY, before it is a matter of legal prescription or of reflective insight, is a matter of instinctive and unconsciously imitated habit. That this is so is shown by the fact that many ethical terms are by their etymology connected with the idea of custom. "Morals" and "morality" are from the Latin mores, usually translated "customs," "ethics," from a Greek root of similar sense. The German Sitten has the same fused meanings. Most of our present-day morality is a matter of custom or convention; and there are those who make a complete identification of the two concepts, morality being simply to them conventional habits of conduct. But a little thought will show that there is a distinction in our common usage; the two categories overlap, but are not identical. On the one hand, our highest moral ideals have never become customary; we long, in our best moments, to make them habitual, but seldom actually attain them. The morals of Jesus, of Buddha, of Marcus Aurelius, have never become habits with any but the saints, yet we recognize them as the high-water mark of human morality. On the other hand, many of our customs have no moral aspect. I may have a fixed habit of going from my home to my office by a certain one out of a number of equally advantageous routes. All of the members of my set may habitually pronounce a given word in a certain way rather equally correct. But about such habits there is nothing moral or immoral. In a word, MORALS ARE CUSTOMS THAT MATTER, OR ARE SUPPOSED TO MATTER; standards to which each member of a group is expected by the other members to conform, and for the neglect of which he is punished, frowned upon, scorned, or blamed. Toward these standards he feels, therefore, a vague or definite pressure, the reflection in him of he feelings of his fellows.
The line between mere habits or manners and morals is differently drawn in different times and places, according to the differing ideas as to what matters. The same actions which are moral to one community ( i.e, arouse feelings or judgments of commendation) may be immoral to another community ( i.e., arouse reprobation or scorn) and non-moral to a third ( i.e., arouse no such response at all). For example, in one tribe tattooing may be a mere matter of personal liking, of no importance and with no group-judgment upon it; yet certain habits with regard to it may become widespread. In another tribe certain tattoos may be thought to be enjoined by the god, and their neglect deemed a matter of serious importance to the tribe as a whole; tattooing may here be said to be a part of the tribal morals. To us moderns it is probably a morally indifferent affair; but if we should learn it to be seriously deleterious to the body, it would again become a moral matter. In short, morals are customs that affect, or are supposed to affect, a man's life or that of his tribe for weal or woe. Obviously, this discrimination is not consciously made by savages; indeed, to this day, such distinctions are enveloped in a haze for the average man. Men do not realize the raison d'etre of morals. They follow them because their fathers did or their fellows do; because they inherit instincts that drive them in their direction or inevitably imitate those who have formed the habits before; because they feel a pressure toward them and are uncomfortable if they hold out against it. When pressed for a justification of their conduct, they are usually surprised at the inquiry; such action seems obviously the thing to do, and that is the end of it. Or they will hit upon some of the secondary sanctions that have grown up about these habits the penalties of the law, the commandment of the gods, or what not. But with our resources of analysis and reflection, it is not difficult to discern that the various forces at work have been such as to preserve, in general, habits which made for the welfare of individual or tribe and discard the harmful ones. It is, then, not merely habits, but habits that matter, moral habits, with whose growth and alteration we are here concerned. What, in general, has been the direction of moral progress? We have noted the main causes at work in the production of morality; we now ask in what general direction these forces push. We have in mind the concrete virtues which have been developed; but what common function have these habits of conduct, so produced, had in human life? What has been the net result of the process? At first sight a generalized answer seems impossible. All sorts of chance causes bring about local alterations in morals. The momentary dominance of an impulse ordinarily weak, the whim of a ruler, the self-interest of classes, superstitious interpretation of omens, the attribution of some success to a prior act which may have had nothing to do with it such accidental and irrational sources of morals, and the resulting codes, are numberless. But as in the process of organic evolution the various obscure physiological alterations which produce variations of type are all overruled and guided in a few directions of value to the species by the law of natural selection, so in the evolution of in all directions are subject to the law of the survival of the fittest. It is really of comparatively little importance to discover how a given moral habit first arose; it may have arisen in a hundred different ways in a hundred different places; indeed, the precise origin of most of the cardinal virtues lies too far back in the mists of the past to be traced with assurance. But the important truth to observe is not the particular details of their haphazard origin but the causes of their survival. Overlaying the countless originating causes of moral ideals are two main preservation—causes, two constant factors which retain certain of the innumerable impulses for one reason or other momentarily dominant. These are of extreme significance for a comprehension of the function of morality in life.
(1) In the first place, a certain number of these blind, hit-or-miss experiments in conduct were, as we have seen, of use to individuals or the tribe in increasing their chances of survival in the ceaseless rivalry for life. The inclemency's of nature and the enmity of the beasts and other men kill more often the less moral than the more moral. So that in general and in the long run those that developed the higher moral habits outlived the others and transmitted their morals to the future. Even within historic times this same weeding-out process has been observable. On the whole, the races and the individuals with the more advanced moral standards survive, while those of lower standards perish. This law accounts, for instance, in some measure probably for the relatively greater increase of whites than of Negroes in the United States, in spite of the higher birth rate of the latter. Other causes are, to be sure, also at work in this competition for life; for one thing, the long period of intercommunication between European races has largely weeded out the stocks most liable to certain diseases, while the antecedent isolation of savage tribes, with no such elimination at work, allows them to fall victims in greater numbers to European diseases when mutual contact is established. But the degree of the moralization of a people has been certainly one of the criteria of survival; and thus by a purely mechanical elimination mankind has grown more and more moral. It hardly needs to be added that the conscious selection of codes that tend to preserve life is a factor of growing importance in insuring movement in this same direction. Altogether, moral progress consists primarily in an increasing adaptation of codes to the preservation of life.
(2) Morality, however, makes not only for life, thus insuring its own perpetuation; it makes also for happiness. Arbitrary and tyrannous rules, cruel or needlessly prohibitive customs, engender restlessness, and are not stable. Such barbarous morals may long persist, propped by the power of the rulers, the superstitions of the people, and all the forces of conservatism; but sooner or later they breed rebellion and are cast aside. On the other hand, more rational codes promote peace and security, banish fear and hatred, and make for all the benefits of civilization. Such codes are in relatively more stable equilibrium and gradually tend to replace the others. All morality is, of course, in one aspect, a restraint upon desire, a check upon impulse; rebelliousness against its decrees will be perpetually recurrent until human nature itself is completely refashioned and men have no inordinate and dangerous desires. But while all codes of conduct are repressive at the moment of passion, they vary widely in the degree in which they satisfy or thwart man's deeper needs. Such institutions as the gladiatorial games of Rome, human sacrifice, or slavery, were fruitful of so much pain that they were bound in time to perish. In contrast with these cruel customs, the prohibitions of the Jewish law, the Ten Commandments, for example, were so humane, so productive of security and concord and a deep-rooted and lasting satisfaction, that they persisted and became the parent of much of our present day morality. An increasing part in this progress has been played by the conscious recognition of the advantages of code over code; but long before such explicit perception of advantage, the blind instincts and emotions of men were making for the gradual humanizing of morals, the selection of ideals and laws that make for human happiness. As civilization advances, the consideration of mere preservation counts for less, and that of happiness for more; the margin, the breathing space, for liberal interests, grows. Men become interested in causes for which they willingly risk their lives. But, except as these causes are fanatical, off the real track of moral progress, they make for human happiness. And the center of interest can never shift too far. For not only is premature death, an evil in itself, it precludes the cultivation of the humane pursuits that life might have allowed.
Men have to learn to find their happiness not in what saps health or invites death, but in what makes for health and life. What definition of morality emerges from this? The foregoing summary permits us to formulate a definition of morality. Historically, there has been a gradual, though not continuous, progress toward CODES OF CONDUCT WHICH MAKE FOR THE PRESERVATION OF LIFE AND FOR HAPPINESS. These codes have received an imaginative consecration, and all sorts of secondary sanctions; but it is their underlying utility that is of ultimate importance. Very simple and obvious causes have continually tended to destroy customs which made in the contrary direction and to select those which, however originating, made for either or both of these two ends. It is these customs, important for the welfare of the individual or tribe, which we call morality. If the original instincts of mankind had been delicately enough adjusted to their needs, there would have been no need of these secondary and overruling impulses, and the differentiation of impulse and duty, of the natural and the spiritual man, would never have arisen. But actually, mankind inherited from its brute ancestry instincts which, unguided, wrought great harm. Without the development of some system of checks men would forever have been the prey of overindulgence, sexual wantonness, civil strife, and apathy. They would have remained beasts and never won their dominance on the earth. Even rudimentary moral codes came as an amelioration of this dangerous and unhappy situation; they enabled men, by abstention from dangerous passions and from idleness, to make their lives efficient, interesting, and comparatively free from pain; by cooperation and mutual service to resist their enemies and develop a civilization. Morality thus has been the greatest instrument of progress, the most fundamental of man's achievements, the most important part of the wisdom of the race.
Is moral progress certain?
A measure of hopefulness is to be won from the observation that, quite apart from the conscious effort of men, natural laws have been making for moral progress. And unquestionably there has been a great advance in morality within historic times. We are forever past the age of cannibalism, of human torture, of slavery, of widespread infanticide. War is on the wane and may vanish within a few generations. Never before was there so much sympathy, so much conscious dedication to human service, in the world. We are apt to idealize the past; we sigh for a "return to nature," or to the golden age of Greece. And there is some justification in our regrets. Simplicity of living, hospitality, courage, patriotism one virtue or another has been more conspicuous in some particular age than ever before or since. Moral progress wavers, and not all that is won is retained. But on the whole there can be no doubt that we stand on a higher level morally than the Greeks who had vices and sins that we scarcely hear of today and incomparably higher than savage races. Even within a lifetime one can see the wave of moral advance push forward. Yet this observable progress is not so certain of continuance that we can lapse into inertia and trust it to go on of itself. With the softening of the struggle for existence among men, with the disappearance of danger from wild animals, and the increasing conquest over nature, the chief means of moral progress hitherto are being removed. More and more we must rely on man's conscious efforts on personal consecration and self-mastery, on improved and extended legislation, on the growth of a moralized public opinion, on organizations and institutions that shall work for specific causes. Moreover, with the changing situations in which man finds himself, and especially with the growing complexification of society, new opportunities for sin and new temptations continually arise. No sooner is one immoral habit stamped out than another begins insidiously, and perhaps unnoticed, to form. The battle-line moves on, but new foes constantly appear; it will not be an easy road to the millennium. On the whole, our material and intellectual advance has outrun our moral progress; at present our chief need is to catch up morally. [Footnote: Cf. Alfred Russel Wallace, in his last book, Social Environment and Moral Progress (p. 50): "This rapid growth of wealth and increase of our power over Nature put too great a strain upon our crude civilization and our superficial Christianity; and it was accompanied by various forms of social immorality, almost as amazing and unprecedented."] We may note several reasons for this eddy in the moralizing process, this counter-movement toward the development of new sins and the renascence of old ones.
(1) With the growth of large cities and the development of individual interests we come to live less and less in one another's eyes. In primitive life it is almost impossible for a man to indulge in any vice or sin without its being immediately known to his fellows; but today millions live such isolated lives in the midst of crowded communities that all sorts of immorality may flourish without detection. Under early conditions foodstuffs or other goods were consumed if not by the producer, at least by his neighbors; and any adulteration or sham was a dangerous matter. Today we seldom know who slaughtered the meat or canned the fruit we eat, who made the clothing or utensils we use; shoddy articles and unwholesome food can be sold in quantity with little fear of the consumer's anger. All sorts of intangible and hardly traceable injuries can be wrought today by malicious or careless men injuries to reputation, to credit, to success. In a city the criminal can hide and escape far more easily, can associate with his own kind, have a certain code of his own (cf. "honor among thieves"), and more completely escape the pangs of conscience, than under the surveillance of village life. In a hundred ways there are increased opportunities for doing evil with impunity. [Footnote: Cf. E. A. Ross, Sin and Society, pp. 32: "The popular symbol for the criminal is a ravening wolf; but alas, few latter day crimes can be dramatized with a wolf and a lamb as the cast! Your up-to-date criminal presses the button of a social mechanism, and at the other end of the land or the year innocent lives are snuffed out. As society grows complex, it can be harmed in more ways. Each advance to higher organization runs us into a fresh zone of danger, so there is more than ever need to be quick to detect and foil the new public enemies that present themselves. The public needs a victim to harrow up its feelings. The injury that is problematic, or general, or that falls in undefined ways upon unknown persons, is resented feebly, or not at all. The fiend who should rack his victim with torments such as typhoid inflicts would be torn to pieces. The villain who should taint his enemy's cup with fever germs would stretch] [Footnote continued from previous page: hemp. But think of it!-the corrupt boss who, in order to extort fat contracts for his firm, holds up for a year the building of a filtration plant designed to deliver his city from the typhoid scourge, and thereby dooms twelve hundred of his townspeople to sink to the tomb through the flaming abyss of fever, comes off scatheless."]
(2) With the gentler conditions of civilized life there is a general tendency toward the relaxing of social restraints. The harsh penalties of early days would shock us by their cruelty; and early codes are full of prohibitions and injunctions on matters which are now left to the individual conscience. Needlessly cramping and cruel as these primitive laws often were, they were powerful deterrents, and their lapse has often been followed by greater moral laxity. The passionate pursuit of liberty, which has been so prominent in modern times, though on the whole of great advantage to man, has not been without its ill effects.
(3) The monotonously specialized and unnatural work, which confines a large proportion of our men, women, and youths today, promotes restlessness and the craving for excitement. The normal all-round occupations of primitive men tended to work off their energies and satisfy their natural impulses. But the dulled and tired worker released from eight or ten hours' drudgery in a factory is apt to be in a psychological state that demands variety, excitement, pleasure at any cost. It does not pay to repress human nature too much, or to try to make out of a red-blooded young man or woman a mere machine. Gambling, drunkenness, prostitution, and all sorts of pathological vices flourish largely as a reaction from the dullness and monotony of the day's work. We are paying this heavy penalty for our increase of material efficiency at the expense of normal human living.
(4) With the increased possibilities of undetected sin, above mentioned, and the opportunity which criminals now have of forming within a city a little community of their own which permits them fellowship without rebuke for their sins, there have arisen whole classes of vice-caterers. These men and women make their living by tempting others to sin; the allurements which they set before the young constitute a great check to moral advance, and even threaten continually a serious moral degeneration. The keepers of gambling houses, saloons, and houses of prostitution, the venders of vile pictures and exciting reading matter, the proprietors of indecent dance-halls and theaters, of the "shows" of all sorts that flourish chiefly through their offering of sexual stimulation these are the worst sinners of our times, for they cause thousands of others to sin, and deliberately undermine the moral structure so laboriously reared, and at such heavy cost. Conspicuous in commercialized vice-catering is the Casino of Monte Carlo, where thousands of lives have been ruined. The business of seducing and kidnapping girls-the "white slave trade" flourishes secretly in our great cities. Associations of liquor producers and sellers are very powerful social and political forces. One of the greatest problems before the race is how to exterminate these human beasts of prey that live at the expense of the moral deterioration and often utter ruin of their victims.
(5) While the older racial and national barriers between peoples are breaking down, so that the possibilities of human brotherhood and cooperation are laterally increasing, and the wretched fratricidal wars between peoples coming toward an end, [Footnote: As I read the proof sheets of this book (August, 1914), news comes of the outbreak of what may prove the costliest and one of the least excusable wars of history. Nevertheless, the end of international wars draws near.] Other barriers, between upper and lower classes, are thickening, new antagonisms and antipathies that threaten yet much friction and unhappiness and a retardation of moral progress. Rich are becoming farther and farther consciousness is on the increase, class-wars in the form of strikes, riots, and sabotage, are ominous symptoms. Masses of the laboring class believe that a great class-war is not only inevitable but desirable. Such conflicts, however, besides their material losses, engender hatred, cruelty, lust, greed, and all sorts of other forms of immorality. No one can predict how far such struggles may go in the future toward undoing the socializing process which at best has so many obstacles to meet and moves so slowly. Many forces are at work, however, for moral uplift. The spread of education, teaching men to think, to discern evils, and to comprehend the reasons for right conduct, the increasing influence of public opinion through newspapers and magazines, the growing number of organizations working to eradicate evils, the gradual increase of wise legislation, the reviving moral pressure of the Christian Church such signs of the times should give us courage as well as show us where we can take hold to help. Morality is not static, a cut-and-dried system to be obeyed or neglected, but a set of experiments, being gradually worked out by mankind, a dynamic, progressive instrument which we can help ourselves to forge. There is room yet for moral genius; we are yet in the early and formative stage of human morality. We should not be content with past achievement, with the contemporary standards of our fellows. If we give our keenest thought and our earnest effort, there is no knowing what noble heights of morality we may be helping the future to attain.
Dewey and Tufts, Ethics, chap. IV. Hobhouse, op. cit, part II, chaps. II, VIII. Westermarck, op. cit, chap. VII. Sutherland, op. cit, vol. II, chaps. XIX-XXI. W. G. Sumner, Folkways, chaps. I, II, XI. Sir H. Maine, Village Communities. C. Darwin, Descent of Man, part I, chap. v. J. G. Schurman, Ethical Import of Darwinism. W. I. Thomas, Source Book for Social Origins, part VII. C. Read, Natural and Social Morals, chap. VI. I. King, Development of Religion, chap. XI. On the question of moral progress: Dewey and Tufts, Ethics, pp. 187-92. W. Bagehot, Physics and Politics, chap. VI. H. G. Wells, New Worlds for Old, chap.I, secs. 2-4. J. Bryce, in the Atlantic Monthly, vol. 100, p. 145. E. Root, The Citizen's Part in Government, pp. 96-123. J. S. Mackenzie, Manual of Ethics (2d ed.), chap. XV. A. R. Wallace, Social Environment and Moral Progress.
What are the stages in the history of moral guidance?
THERE may be said to be five stages in the history of moral guidance: guidance by instinct, by custom, by law and precept, by conscience, and by insight. No one of these guides is discarded with the development of the others; we rely today upon all of them in varying degree. Their evolution overlaps; the alteration of instinct still goes on, changing laws and customs still bring their pressure to bear from without upon the individual; while our conscience and our insight have their roots far back in the past. Yet the prominence of each of these factors in turn marks a successive stage in the evolution of moral control. Inherited instinct, and then custom, unconsciously passed on by imitation and to some extent taught with a dimly conscious purpose, shape the crude morality of the animals though the other means of guidance are not wholly absent even in them. Among savages legal codes, unwritten and perhaps not even clearly formulated, yet exacting and strictly enforced by penalties, come to form an important supplement to instinct, custom, and proverbial wisdom. But quite as important is the gradual development of an inward guide—those very various secondary impulses and inhibitions which we hump together because of their common function and call the moral sense or conscience. We shall now consider briefly the origin of this internal steering-apparatus. The latest and most mature guide of all, reflective insight, arises in marked degree only when abstraction and analysis. There is no problem connected with its origin except the general problems of the development of human reason. How moral insight may be trained and brought to bear upon conduct will, it is hoped, be clear to the student who patiently studies this volume.
Out of what has conscience developed?
The "conscience" of our moralizing and religious literature figures as a sharply defined and easily recognizable "faculty," like "will" or "reason." But this classification, though useful, is misleading by its simplicity. If we observe by introspection what goes on in our minds when we "will" or "reason" or "listen to conscience," we shall find all sorts of emotions, ideas, impulses, surging back and forth, altering from moment to moment, never twice the same. At another period of our lives, or in another man's mind, the psychological stuff pigeonholed under these names may be almost entirely different. A great many diverse mental elements have at one time or other taken the role of, or formed an ingredient in, the function we label "conscience." We will enumerate the more important:
(1) Experience quickly teaches her pupils that certain acts to which they feel a strong impulse will lead to an aftermath of pain or weariness, or will stand in the way of other goods which they more lastingly desire or more deeply need. The memory of these consequences of acts remains as a guide for future conduct, not so often in the form of a clearly recognized memory as in a dim realization that the dangerous act must be avoided, a vague pressure against the pull of momentary inclination, or an uncomprehended feeling of impulsion toward the less inviting path. This residuum of the moral experience of the individual is one ingredient in what we call his conscience.
(2) But there is much more than this. The individual is a member of a group. The customs and expectations of this group not only bear upon him from without but find a reflection in his own motor mechanism. He hears the voice of the community in his heart, an echo of the general condemnation and approval. This acquired response, the reverberation of the group judgment, may easily supplant his personal inclinations. Primitive man is sensitive to the judgments and emotional reactions of his fellows; the tribal point of view is unquestioned and authoritative over him. So important is this pressure in his mental life, though not understood or recognized for what it is, that conscience is denned by many moralists as the pressure of the judgment of the tribe in the mental life of its members, or in similar terms. Paulsen calls it "the existence of custom in the consciousness of the individual." This is to neglect unjustly the other sources of the sense of duty; but certainly the pulls and pushes arising from these two sources, which we may call the inner aspect of individual moral experience and of loyalty to the community-morals, reinforcing one another as they generally do, produce a very powerful form of conscience.
(3) A number of primitive emotions join forces with them. Sympathy is generally on their side, and the instinctive glow of patriotism or pride in the tribe's success. The shrinking from disapproval, the craving for esteem, the very early emotions of shame and vanity, help to pull away from the self-indulgent or selfish impulse. The spontaneous admiration of others for their virtues and anger at them for their sins is applied involuntarily by a man to himself; contempt for his own weakness and joy in his superiority according to the generally accepted code are powerful deterrents. The consciousness of the resentment that others will feel if he does evil, the instinctive application to himself of a trace of the resentment he would feel toward him or toward these fellow tribesmen of is-such complex states of mind complicate his mental processes and help check his primary instincts.
(4) To these ingredients we must early add the more or less conscious fear of the penalties of the tribal law, of the vengeance of chiefs or powerful members of the tribe, of the tribal gods and their jealous priests. These fears may be but dimly felt and not clearly discriminated; but however subconscious they may be in a given case of moral conflict, they play a large part. The peace of mind that accompanies a sense of conformity to the will of rulers or of gods, contrasted with the anxiety that follows infraction, gives a greatly increased weight to that growing pressure of counter instincts which comes so largely to override a man's animal nature. Most of the sources of conscience thus date far back beyond the dawn of history. But they can be pretty safely inferred from the earliest records, from a study of existing savage races, and from the study of childhood. The definite conception of "conscience" is very late, scarcely appearing until very modern times. And the fact that conscience itself, even in its rudimentary forms, was much later in growth than the underlying animal instincts which it developed to control and guide, is shown by its late development in the child-not, normally, until the beginning of the third year. The early life of the individual parallels the evolution of the race; and the later-developed faculties in the child are those which arose in the later stages of human progress. But the existence of our well-defined moral sense, with its significant role in modern life, needs no supernatural explanation. It has grown up and come to be what it is as naturally as have our language, our customs, and our physical organs.
What is conscience now? It is a valuable exercise in introspection to observe a case of "conscience" in one's own life and note of what mental stuff it is made. When a number write down their findings without mutual suggestion, the results are usually widely divergent. Any of the original ingredients hitherto mentioned may be discovered, or other personal factors. There may be present to consciousness only a vague uneasiness or restlessness, or there may be a sophisticated recurrence of the concepts of "conscience," "duty," etc. The one universal fact is that there is a conflict between some primitive impulse or passion and some maturer mental checks. Any sort of mental stuff that serves the purpose of controlling desire will do; we must define conscience in terms not of content but of function. There is no such unity in the material as the single name seems to imply; and whether or not that name shall be given to a given psychological state is a matter of usage in which there is considerable variation.
In general, we reserve the name "conscience" for the vaguer and more elusive restraints and leadings, the sense of reluctant necessity whose purpose we do not clearly see although we feel its pressure, the accumulated residuum of long inner experience and many influences from without. Our minds retain many creases whose origin we have forgotten; we veer away from many a pleasant inclination without knowing why. These unanalyzed and residual inhibitions that grip us and will not let us go, form a contrasting background to our more explicit motives and often count for more in our conduct. The very lack of comprehension serves in less rational minds to enhance their prestige with an atmosphere of awe and mystery. These strange checks and promptings that well up in a man's heart are which he must not dare to disobey. The voice of God in our hearts we may, indeed, well conceive them to be. The attempt to analyze into its psychological elements and trace the natural genesis of conscience, as of morality in general must not be taken as an attempt to discredit it or to read God out of the world. For God works usually, if not universally, through natural laws; and the historical viewpoint, that sees everything in our developed life as the outcome of ages of natural evolution, is not only rich in fruitful insight, but entirely consistent with a deep religious feeling. For hortatory or inspirational purposes we do not need to make this analysis; it has, indeed, its practical dangers. It tends to rob the glory from anything to analyze it into its parts and study the natural causes that produced it. The loveliest painting is but a mess of pigments to the microscope, the loveliest face but a mess of cells and hairs and blood vessels. There is something gruesome and inhuman about embryology and all other studies of origins.
While we are analyzing an object, or tracing its genesis, we are not responding to it as a whole or feeling its beauty and power. The mystery, the spell, vanishes; we cease to thrill when we dissect. But knowledge proceeds by analysis, and gains by a study of origins and causes. And the temporary emotional loss should be more than balanced by the value of the insight won. We need not linger too long at our dissecting. The discovery that conscience is an explicable and natural development does not preclude a realization of the awfulness of obligation, the sacredness of duty, any more than a geologist must cease to thrill at the grandeur and beauty of the Grand Canyon because he has studied the composition of the rocks and understands the causes that have slowly, through the ages, wrought this miracle. So we need feel no sense of duty is not something imposed upon human nature from without; it is of its very substance, it has developed step by step with our other faculties, slowly crystallizing through millenniums of human and pre-human experience. In the abstract, then, we may say that conscience is a name for ANY SECONDARY IMPULSES OR INHIBITIONS WHICH CHECK AND REDIRECT MAN'S PRIMARY IMPULSES, FOR A GREATER GOOD; any later developed aversions or inclinations, judgments of value or feelings of constraint, which guide a man in the teeth of his animal nature toward a better way of life PROVIDED THAT THESE SUPERIMPOSED IMPULSES ARE NOT EXPLICIT ENOUGH TO BE CLASSIFIED UNDER SOME OTHER HEAD. For example, we may be pulled up sharply from a course of self-indulgence by a conscious realization of the harm we are doing to others thereby; this bridling state of mind, whether chiefly emotional or more intellectual, we may call sympathy, or an altruistic instinct, or love. But when we feel the pressure from these same mental states incipiently aroused, when our motor-mechanism half automatically steers us away from the selfish act, without our consciously formulating a specific name for the new impulse or recognizing any articulate motive, we are apt to give this mental push the more general name of conscience. So if we consciously reckon up, balance advantages, and decide on the less inviting act in recognition of its really greater worth to us, we say we act from prudence or insight, we are reasonable about it; while if the grumbling of the prudential motives remain subterranean, subconscious, they play the role of conscience. Conscience is, on such occasions, but inarticulate common sense. Usually, however, prudential and altruistic motives would both be discovered if the dumb driving of conscience were to be made articulate. The reverberation of parental teachings, of sermons heard and books read, of the opinions and emotions of our fellows, might be found, all bent and fused into a combined "suggestion," a mental push, a "must" or "ought," from whose influence we find it difficult to escape.
The detailed psychological analysis of cases of conscience and the study of its genesis are of no essential ethical interest, except as they show us that the sense of duty is not an ultimate, irreducible element in our consciousness, or make clearer to us its function and value. Conscience is the general name for coercion upon conduct from within the mind. The important thing to note is the useful purpose, which, in its so widely varying forms, it serves. Whatever its sources or its exact nature in contemporary man, it is one of the most valuable of our assets. To a more explicit statement of its value we must now turn. What is the value of conscience?
It would seem, at first glance, as if the development of reason should make conscience unnecessary. When we are able to discern the consequences of our acts, formulate and weigh our motives and aims, what need of these vague pre-rational promptings and inhibitions? Why not train men to supplant a blind sense of duty by a conscious insight, a rational valuation of ends and means? Is not reason, as it has been recently called, "the ultimate conscience"? [Footnote: G. Santayana, Reason in Science, p. 232; where also the following: "So soon as conscience summons its own dicta for revision in the light of experience and of universal sympathy, it is no longer called conscience, but reason."]
(1) Conscience is valuable on account of our ignorance. Individually we have not had experience enough to guide us in our crises; conscience is the representative in us of the wisdom of the race. In many cases we should never reason out the right solution of a problem; we lack the data. But we can lean upon the racial experience. Many past experiences, now forgotten, have gone to the molding of this faculty. The need of action is often imminent, there is no time for the long study of the situation which alone could form a sure insight into the conduct it demands. We need readymade morals. Moreover, we are subject to bias, to individual one sidedness, and to the distortion of passion; in the stress of temptation we are not in a mood to reason judicially, even if we have the necessary data. Altogether, insight, though in the long run the critic of conscience, is not a practical substitute. What conscience tells us is more apt to be true than what at the moment seems a rational judgment.
(2) Conscience is also valuable in view of our rebelliousness. Conventional morality is external, and would continually arouse revolt, were it not reinforced by an inward prompting. If external motives and penalties alone bore upon us we should chafe under them, and under the stress of passion or longing throw them aside. Even if these external sanctions were reinforced by insight into the rationality of morality, that insight might still leave us rebellious and unpersuaded. Knowledge alone is feeble, marginal in our lives. We often sin in the full knowledge of the penalties awaiting us. We need something more dynamic, pressure as well as information. Conscience is such a driver. Its commands weigh upon us, and will not be stilled. Reason plays but a weak part in the best of us; and to counteract our incurable waywardness, our recurrent longings for what cannot be had without too great a cost, we need not only the presence of law and convention, not only the weak voice of knowledge, but the stern summons of this powerful psychological response. Nature was wise when she evolved this function as a bulwark against our weakness, a bit between our because of our forgetfulness. Over and over again we say, "I didn't stop to think." If our conscience had been properly acute, it would have made us stop. Insight, however comprehensive and clear, is apt to remain somewhere in a locked drawer in our minds when the hot blooded impulse appears. If we were but to pause and reflect, we should be sensible and kind. But our intellect is dulled by our emotions, it does not get working. We need a more instinctive, a deeper-rooted mechanism, an imperious "Halt!" at the brief moment between the thought of sin and the act. Conscience is not only a teacher and a driver, it is a sentinel. Its red flag stops us at the brink of many a disaster, and we have it to thank for many an otherwise forgotten duty performed.