Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 13.djvu/540

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us, was at first but a very flickering and transitory feeling as opposed to our inherited selfishness; but, for all that, it was the bridge by which men first began to cross from self-love to benevolence, and to become social beings. An interesting survival of this primeval state of things may perhaps be traced in Roman law, under which the father's control over his children seems to point back to the time when men did their duty to their children only as part of themselves, and exercised to the fullest extent the right to do what they pleased with their own. A less pleasing reminiscence of the primitive conscience is to be found in the plea of the slaveholders, that they do not ill-treat their slaves because it is for their own interests to keep them alive, healthy, and happy.

4. The Social Stage. At a certain period of his mental growth primeval man must have begun to form conceptions or ideas of the various objects that came within his experience, so as to be able to say, "This is a flower, and this a stone, and this a man." Now his idea of man must of necessity have been framed upon his knowledge of himself. Whatever qualities or properties he recognized as belonging to himself, these he would transfer to all other beings of whose likeness to himself in all essential conditions he had become aware. Hence it would follow that as he had a distinct and vivid impression of his own right to existence, he would have the same impression, in a faint and dubious form, of other men as possessing the same right. It seems probable that to this rudimentary perception of mutual likeness may be traced all that part of our social feelings which owes its origin to an intellectual as opposed to physical sources. Anyhow this recognition of likeness selects for man the kind of beings with whom he is willing to enter into those social relations to which he finds himself impelled in part by inherited instincts, and in part by the necessity of living together with other creatures in the same territory, and upon the same means of subsistence which they must procure in common. Thus the important fact emerges that man brought (in germ) the idea of right and wrong with him to the formation of society, and did not obtain it as a result of social intercourse acting through the agency of pains and pleasures. From the moment that A, B, and C, recognizing a likeness of nature, and therefore a possibility of intercommunion, resolved upon trying the experiment of living together, they must have perceived that they could only do so by acknowledging each other's independent claims to be allowed to live. In respect of all that pertains to life and death they must, in short, have acted up to what Mr. Mill called the "golden ethics" of doing to others as we would they should do unto us. Let us note, in passing, that this "golden" saying, when seen in the light of evolution, becomes not merely a moral rule but also a statement of a scientific fact, for it was only by acting in accordance with it that "neighborhood" became possible. "Who is my neighbor but he to whom I assign the same right to exist that I claim for myself from him?"