Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 11.djvu/568

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therefore, of that kind of quality in human conduct which we call "moral," I shall distinguish it only by its absoluteness.

Every act in the conduct of a human being is incident to some one or more of the varied relationships by which his state of being is conditioned. Fundamentally, there are four groups of such relationships, subject to which every act of man is performed: 1. His relationships to inanimate Nature, or to the matter, the forces, and the routine processes, of his physical environment; 2. His relationships to the living creatures with which he is associated in existence, that are not of his own kind; 3. The relationships that exist within himself, between the manifold parts of his own being; between that, for example, which is animal on one side and that which is more than animal on the other; 4. The relationships that exist between himself and his human fellows.

It might be expected, perhaps, that I should add a fifth relationship—that of man to the supreme source of being and of law in the universe; but this lies at the outside of what we are now investigating. It is a relationship to which nothing in human conduct can be incident primarily, however powerful an influence upon conduct may be referred to it secondarily. The emotions of religion, induced by a conscious relationship of responsibility to some supreme, divine government in the universe, give a color of their own, it is true, to the quality of human acts, but they do not assume to impart that quality nor to change it. Primarily, they have nothing to do with it—it is determined independently of them—and Religion has to do with the quality of human actions only by adopting the colder consciousness on which Morality is founded, and suffusing it with the warmth of reverential and impassioned motives.

Of the four groups of relationships to which all conduct is incident, the one first named does not fall within the region of morals, and the second only touches upon the borders of it. Without entering into the reasons of the fact, it may be seen that the kind of quality we are looking for in human actions cannot exist where the act is entirely conditioned by purely physical laws, as in the case of a man's dealing with the inanimate world. As he stands related to brute creatures, however, one new factor is introduced, which is that of sentiency, on the opposite side of the relationship, as well as on the side of the human actor, and we find in the conduct incident to this a single quality which we recognize as of absolute existence—inhering in the very nature of the act to which it pertains. For the positive phase of this quality, which is not exactly kindness and not exactly mercifulness, no name seems to have ever been adopted. In its negative phase we call it cruelty, and it appears to be, among moral traits, the primary one.

In the third group of relationships, embracing those which are