Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/213

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A GERMAN VIEW OF THE "DATA OF ETHICS."

worship of material wealth, to the thirst for riches and power at the expense of others. Whatever furthers development and brings its goal nearer, is useful; and the goal of development lies in a fair and distant future, whose outline the philosopher thinks he sees. The highest aim, to which all others are subsidiary, to which the strivings of the best are directed, is a moral order of life corresponding to the noblest longings of reason, of the most highly developed man in the most highly developed society. Such a system appeals to that ennobled and enlightened utilitarianism which constitutes the longing after ideal possessions—the condition of the highest welfare of man.

The rigorism of other moral systems has no place in the ethics of evolution. Its moral law is not like that of Kant, sublimely above all connection with natural impulses and inclinations, nor does it constitute moral life a continuous battle against desires which aim at the furthering of individual happiness. "Great mischief has been done by the repellent aspect habitually given to moral rule by its expositors, and immense benefits are to be anticipated from presenting moral rule under that attractive aspect which it has when undistorted by superstition and asceticism. If a father, sternly enforcing numerous commands, some needful and some needless, adds to his severe control a behavior wholly unsympathetic; if his children have to take their pleasure by stealth, or, when timidly looking up from their play, ever meet a cold glance, or more frequently a frown—his government will inevitably be disliked, if not hated; and the aim will be to evade it as much as possible. Contrariwise, a father who, equally firm in maintaining restraints needful for the well-being of his children or the well-being of other persons, not only avoids needless restraints, but, giving his sanction to all legitimate gratifications and providing the means for them, looks on at their gambols with an approving smile, can scarcely fail to gain an influence which, no less efficient for the time being, will also be permanently efficient. The controls of two such fathers symbolize the controls of morality as it is and morality as it should be."

This comparison, however, does not hold good of all forms of rigorism. Kant's moral law knows neither inclination nor disinclination. It neither attracts by rewards nor terrifies by punishments. It is neither the father who adds unsympathetic bearing to stern supervision, nor the father who helps the enjoyment of his children and watches their games. It is sublime above all traffic with the inclinations. And it may still be asked whether Kant was "so far from the track of truth" when he sought the ethical criterion in the law-abiding, duty-abiding sentiment, and maintained the supremacy of that sentiment with that enthusiasm which inspired his famous apostrophe to duty: "Duty, thou sublime, thou lofty name; which embracest within thee naught beloved bringing flattery; commanding submission, though threatening nothing to move the will, but only setting up a