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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/200

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

religious basis as unsound.[1] I shall follow chiefly the teachings of one who has inculcated in their best and purest form the scientific doctrines of morality, and may be regarded as head, if not founder, of that school of philosophy which, on purely scientific grounds, sets happiness as the test of duty the measure of moral obligation. To Mr. Herbert Spencer we owe, I take it, the fullest and clearest answer to the melancholy question, "Is Life Worth Living?" whether asked whiningly, as in the feeble lamentations of such folk as Mr. Mallock, or gloomily and sternly, as in the Promethean groans of Carlyle. The doctrine that happiness is to be sought for one's self (but as a duty to others as well as to self), that the happiness of others is to be sought as a duty (to one's self as well as to them) happiness as a means, happiness as the chief end such has been the outcome of the much-maligned philosophy of Mr. Herbert Spencer, such has been the lesson resulting from his pursuance of what he himself describes as his "ultimate purpose, lying behind all proximate purposes," that of "finding for the principles of right and wrong, in conduct at large, a scientific basis."

If I can help to bring this noble and beautiful doctrine for noble and beautiful even those must admit it to be who deny its truth before the many who regard Herbert Spencer's teachings with fear and trembling, not knowing what they are, I shall be content. But I would advise all, who have time, to read the words of the master himself. Apart from the great doctrines which they convey, they are delightful reading, clear and simple in language, graceful and dignified in tone, almost as worthy to be studied as examples of force and clearness in exposition as for that which nevertheless constitutes their real value the pure and beautiful moral doctrines which they offer to those over whom current creeds have lost their influence.

Let me hope that none will be deterred from following this study, by the inviting aspect of the moral rules advanced by the great modern teacher even as in past times men were anxious, or even angry, when another teacher showed more consideration for human weaknesses than had seemed right to the men of older times. I will not ask here whether doctrines of repellent aspect are likely to be more desirable than those which are more benignantly advanced. It suffices that with many the former now exert no influence, whether they should do so or not. So that, as far as these (for whom I am chiefly writing) are concerned, all must admit the truth of what Mr. Spencer says respecting the benefits to be derived from presenting moral rule under that attractive aspect which it has when undisturbed by superstition and asceticism. To close these introductory remarks by a quotation from the charming pages of his "Data of Ethics":

  1. I say "so-called," referring rather to the word "religious" than to any question concerning the divine origin of current creeds. Strictly speaking, the word religious may be as correctly applied to moral rules based on scientific considerations as to those formulated in company with any of the diverse creeds prevailing among men.