Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 22.djvu/165

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MR. GOLDWIN SMITH ON "THE DATA OF ETHICS."

we can understand why the murderer should he wretched amid his wealth?

We must not, however, forget that Mr. Smith supposes the murderer to he able to natter himself that he has probably caused more happiness than unhappiness by his crime, Such a supposition might perhaps embarrass a utilitarian of the old school, but hardly an adherent of the "rational utilitarianism" taught by Mr. Spencer. Crude utilitarianism assumes that an action can only be judged by the consequences which directly and visibly flow from it; rational utilitarianism says that the criterion of an action is some rule of conduct established by experience. The crude utilitarian is like a man who would discard or ignore the multiplication-table, and insist on doing all sums involving multiplication by addition; or who should insist on working out, by tedious and uncertain arithmetical processes, problems which could be solved with the far greater ease and certainly by algebra. Experience shows what lines of conduct, what principles of action, are favorable to happiness in general, and to the satisfaction of the instinct of sympathy in particular; and human civilization can not be carried very far before the principle is established that harm must come from the shedding of human blood. Such a principle gains authority over men's minds; and, when an action is done that conflicts with it, it is in vain that the perpetrator tries, by a fresh calculation of all the supposed elements of the case, to show that his particular crime may be all right.

3. We are probably now prepared to estimate the force of the next objection urged by Mr. Smith against evolutionary ethics, that they do away with the idea of the "indefeasible sacredness of human life." They would no doubt do away with any surplusage of mere sentiment on the subject; but, seeing that the first moral principle which emerges, from the evolutionary point of view, is equity, and seeing that life is what every man holds most dear, it is very hard to understand why a system, which may be said simply to rationalize the Golden Rule, should lead men to deal less carefully with human life than the systems of the past. What light does history shed upon the question? In what estimation was human life or human suffering held in the ages of faith? It was surely in a pre-evolution period that a man could be hanged in England for stealing a sheep. Such things can not be done to-day. Why? Is it—we should like a candid answer to the question because there is a deeper impression than formerly that man is made in the image of God; or because the sentiment of justice has grown stronger, and men have learned to sympathize more with one another?

4. Finally, we are told that Mr. Spencer, being an evolutionist, must be a necessarian, and that, as such, it is not open to him to condemn any act as wrong, seeing that the doer of the act could plead that his conduct was just what the point he had reached in evolution ren-