but laws of the "ought"; not laws of conduct in general, hut of conduct of a certain kind. As logic establishes the regulative laws and postulates of scientific knowledge, ethics establishes the regulative principles of moral life.
The stand-point assumed by the author, in dealing with evolution, serves also in ethics. It appears to him evident that, from indifferent actions to actions which are good or bad, the transition is quite gradual. In ethics, as in evolution, the higher development must be explained by the lower. The study of ethical problems presupposes the study of human action as a whole, and this again presupposes that of the actions of living beings in general. The study of the evolution of action forms the preparation for ethics.
It is shown, in the first place, that "higher organic development is accompanied by more highly developed action." The latter is "an improving adjustment of actions to ends, such as furthers the prolongation of life, such as furthers an increased amount of life." Action adapts itself more and more to self and race maintenance; and here also the general evolutionary principle is applicable. "Race maintaining conduct, like self-maintaining conduct, arises gradually out of that which can not be called conduct; adjusted actions are preceded by unadjusted ones."
In treating of good and bad conduct, Herbert Spencer, in the first place, endeavors to establish the meaning of the terms "good" and "bad." Actions properly adapted to ends are good, and actions not so adapted are evil, both these definitions being taken in a relative sense only. Good conduct is identical with the most highly developed conduct, which "simultaneously achieves the greatest totality of life in self, in offspring, and in our fellow-men."
Pessimistic verdicts upon the value of life are combated by the author with all the might of his intellect, as standing in harsh contradiction to every paragraph of the unwritten moral code of humanity. He leans toward a limited optimism. He rightly urges that pessimists and optimists agree on one point. Both "assume it to be self evident that life is good or bad according as it does, or does not, bring a surplus of agreeable feeling. . . . Each makes the kind of sentiency which accompanies life the test."
A general consideration of the conflicting views of life brings the author to the conclusion that the good, on the whole, is that which causes pleasure; that our ideas of good and evil arise from the certainty or probability that the same will call forth, somewhere or some time, pleasure or suffering.
Not man as an individual, independent of social relations, of family, people, state, society; not man or humanity in the abstract; but man in society, the social individual, the member of the social union, is the subject for whose moral action, for the adaptations of whose conduct to the highest aims of social life, it is the business of scientific ethics