A rule of conduct once established, the mind, working quite independently of the will of the individual, resents any attempt to impugn its authority. Naturally enough, seeing that, to impugn its authority means an unsettlement of all that the rule had settled. Take the case now in question. We can not conceive the existence of any social order, unless the principle is recognized that no man should, for selfish purposes of his own, take the life of another. But, let a man be so overmastered by his cupidity as to commit this crime, he can not by that one act of rebellion undo the work already accomplished in his mind, by virtue of which he had learned to condemn murder on principle. It is to his interest now to deny the principle, but he can not do it without tearing his own mind to pieces; for not more truly have certain elements been compounded in his body, to form its various organic substances, than have elementary experiences combined in his mind to form those principles of thought which sustain its functional activity and make it a living organism. And just as the true unit of the body is not any elementary atom, but a cell, so the true unit of the mind is not an isolated experience, or any cluster of unorganized experiences, but a combination of experiences, a generalization from experiences.
The murderer in the case supposed by Mr. Smith has eluded the law, and not only paid no material penalty whatever, but actually reaped vast benefits from his crime. Could any case be possibly imagined in which—making, of course, allowance for the inferiority of nature of a man who could commit murder at all—the violated authority of perhaps the most fundamental of all social principles should make itself more keenly felt? Had the man been caught red handed, and come promptly under the sentence of justice, his remorse would have been slight in all probability; possibly he might not have felt any. But, escaping as he did, and prospering by his crime, his mind would remain continually open to the upbraidings of that part of his nature which he had outraged by his deed, to all the reasons which the experiences of every day as well as his involuntary thoughts would suggest why the deed should not have been done. Is not this enough? Must we still call in the Eumenides before
his act is determined by certain imagined proximate pleasures of relatively simple kinds, rather than by less clearly-imagined possible pains that are more remote and of relatively involved kinds. . . . Throughout the ascent from low creatures up to man, and from the lowest types of man up to the highest, self-preservation has been increased by the subordination of simple excitations to compound excitations the subjection of immediate sensations to the ideas of sensations to come the overruling of presentative feelings by representative feelings, and of representative feelings by?*e-representative feelings. As life has advanced, the accompanying sentiency has become increasingly ideal; and, among feelings produced by the compounding of ideas, the highest, and those which have evolved latest, are the re-compounded or doubly ideal. Hence it follows that as guides the feelings have authorities proportionate to the degrees in which they are removed by their complexity and ideality from simple sensations and appetites."