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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/486

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

aspect increase, while in another aspect it may diminish, the fullness and quantity of life: but our definition of good and bad conduct is not affected by such considerations. Just as a knife may be a good knife for cutting bread, and a bad knife for cutting wood, just as a business transaction may be good in relation to some immediate purpose, yet bad when remoter effects are considered, so can we truly apply to conduct the terms good and bad in reference to one set of considerations, even though we may have to invert the terms when conduct is considered in reference to another set of considerations. But always, in its scientific aspect, conduct is to be regarded as good where it increases life or the fullness of life, and bad where it tends the contrary way.

When we separate conduct ethically indifferent from conduct in its strict ethical aspect, it is convenient to substitute for the words good and bad the words right and wrong. But the change is slighter than at first sight it appears. Indeed, the more carefully the question of rightness or wrongness—the question of duty—is considered, the more thoroughly does the kind of conduct judged to be morally indifferent merge into that which we regard as praiseworthy or censurable.

Taking first those parts of conduct which relate directly to the quantity or to the fullness of individual life, we find that while the terms good and bad are freely applied to them, and even the terms right and wrong, they are, for the most part, regarded as morally indifferent. When we say you ought to do this or to refrain from that, the idea of duty is often not really present, so long as the act in question relates to a man's own life or its fullness. Even when we use words of praise or censure in relation to such acts, they do not imply that a moral obligation has been discharged or neglected. The reason doubtless is that, as a rule, men need little encouragement to look after those parts of their conduct which affect themselves and their own interests. For it may be observed that where it is likely there may be want of due care or wisdom in such matters, there we find distinct exceptions to the general rule just indicated. So far as quantity and fullness of life are concerned, the man who crosses a crowded thoroughfare carelessly, he who neglects his business, and he who wears insufficient or unsuitable clothes in cold and wet weather, act with as little propriety in their adjustments as is shown by the man who steadily drinks intoxicating liquors. But while none preach such duties as caution in street-crossing, prudence and energy in business, and care about clothing, at least as duties morally obligatory, quite a number of persons preach against steady and heavy drinking as against a moral offense. The Bible, indeed, does not, though it has many a word of advice against wine-bibbing; yet even in the Bible we find evidence of the early existence of total abstainers, and it is altogether unlikely that those ancient Blue-Ribbonists omitted to recog-